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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 111550
Experience:  Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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Are family court charges the same as criminal charges? Three

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Are family court charges the same as criminal charges? Three years ago, my husband pled guilty to neglect charges in family court in NJ. He is a recovering drug addict who relapsed after our baby's birth and was found guilty of neglect because he admitted to using drugs. Shortly after DYFS became involved he entered rehab. By the time the court case was resolved, he had about 6 months of sobriety and has remained sober ever since.

Three years later, he is now completing an MSW program in Florida. In order to become licensed, he will have to be cleared by DCF even if he doesn't intend to ever work with children or the elderly. My question is whether family court convictions can ever be expunged, or whether there is any action he can take to be cleared for licensing or work in the social services field. He recently found out that his background check came back as "rejected" from the place where he started his internship (no contact with children, this is a drug-treatment facility exclusively dealing with drug court clients). At this point, we don't know if it is because of the DYFS charge or because of his previous history, though he was forthright about his background from the beginning and has never mis-represented himself.

Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

In NJ, child abuse and neglect cases can be BOTH criminal and civil. Pursuant to NJSA 9:6-8.22 and 8.24, the Family Part of Superior Court in each county has jurisdiction of all non-criminal proceedings involving cases alleging child abuse and neglect.

Your husband's case thus appears to be civil and should have an “FN” (Family Neglect) docket number, not a criminal case number. Unfortunately, there is no process in NJ to "expunge" a civil case and all he can do is file a petition with the family court for rehabilitation from the charge, which is where he provides evidence in the family court in NJ that heard the case that the circumstances that led to the case against him no longer exist and ask the court to "seal" the record and issue an order that he has been rehabilitated and is no longer any danger to children or elderly or others. I am afraid that is all that can be done with a civil family neglect case.


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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Would you recommend he file this petition through an attorney or is this something he can do on his own? Where can we obtain information about filing this petition? What does "sealing" a record mean?


 


 

Thank you for your response.

This is something that absolutely needs to be done by an attorney, just like you would not dare perform an appendectomy on yourself or your husband. This is not a normal or simple request to the court, so the attorney will have to put together case law and also your husband's current medical and rehab records and will have to argue in court to convince the court to issue the order of rehabilitation and to seal the record, because this is not something the courts do frequently and they only do so reluctantly as justice requires.

Sealing the record means it would not be available to anyone other than law enforcement or court agencies for official purposes and the order of rehabilitation would also show DHS that he is no longer suffering from the same conditions that led to the charges against him.