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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 102320
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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We need help with a family situation. I have two nephews,

Customer Question

We need help with a family situation.
I have two nephews, ages 14 and 16, who (I believe) are being emotionally abused by my brother. He has major issues, anger being one of them, and though he's never hit them, they are terrified of his "explosions." They are not allowed to talk to anyone about issues they are having with him. As an example, the oldest one confided in his maternal grandmother about some things that were unfair; she called her daughter and scolded her; this all got back to my brother, who then severely punished his son for saying anything (by grounding). We all walk on eggshells around him. What rights do the children have, how can we protect them (they constantly call my father, asking him to help them) and what are our options? This situation is getting worse and worse and we greatly fear for the children. Thanks.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

I am sorry to hear about this situation. Please tell me:

1) What state is this in, and

2) Have either of the children lived with you for a period of time, or not?

This is not an answer, but an information request. I need this information to answer your question. Please reply, so I can answer your question. Thank you in advance.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi. They live in New Jersey. We live in the south; no, they have never lived with anyone but their parents. They are both in therapy, and we thought the therapist may intervene but so far nothing.
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.

Thank you.

Understand that someone in your situation is considered a "third party," and cannot file for custody of the children. This is because no statutory language allows a third party in NJ to file for custody of a child. The Court can use some equitable doctrine to perhaps justify it if the children had lived with the third party, but they had not in this case, so this does not apply.

One's best option is to perhaps file a complaint with the NJ DCF (child protective services). DCF has the statutory right to stand for custody for children if a child is being abused. If DCF feels the issue is serious enough, they can mandate that the parents take parenting classes, or else risk having their custody taken away temporarily/permanently (ironically in such a case, DCF would then generally attempt place the children with extended family such as yourselves).

However for DCF to threaten custody action, the abuse/neglect has to be serious. The emotional abuse has to be serious.

Good luck.

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