Should I Call DCYF Regarding My Ex’s House?

child in front of a stove

Should I Call DCYF Regarding My Ex’s House?

Divorce and separation are challenging for any family, and the well-being of children should be of the utmost priority. If you suspect that your child’s safety may be compromised at your ex-partner’s home, you might be considering whether to involve the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) in New Hampshire. This is not something to be taken lightly and requires you to consult with a family lawyer.

When to Consider Calling DCYF

DCYF (Division for Children, Youth, Family) is designed to intervene in situations where a child’s safety and well-being are at risk. Here are some typical reasons why you might need to involve them:

1. Physical Safety Concerns

If you have reason to believe that your child is in immediate physical danger due to neglect or abuse, it is paramount to contact DCYF. Signs might include unexplained injuries, frequent bruises or cuts, or your child reporting being hurt by someone in their other home.

2. Environmental Hazards

Unsafe living conditions, such as extreme uncleanliness, exposure to hazardous materials, or severe structural hazards in the home, warrant a call to DCYF. These environments can pose significant health risks to children.

3. Emotional Abuse

While harder to detect, emotional or psychological abuse is severely harmful. Signs include drastic changes in your child’s behavior, severe anxiety, depression, or fearfulness about going to the other parent’s house.

4. Substance Abuse

If you believe that your child is being exposed to substance abuse, including alcohol or drug use, that impacts the caregiving in the household, DCYF should be contacted. This includes any situation where substance use impairs a parent’s ability to care for their child safely and appropriately.

5. Neglect

Neglect can manifest as failing to provide adequate food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision. If you suspect that your child’s basic needs are not being met in the other parent’s home, it is appropriate to reach out to DCYF.

Duty to Report

New Hampshire law requires that any person “having reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected” must report their suspicion to DCYF. This is an exception to the general rule that citizens do not have a legal obligation to report the crimes of others. Because the safety of children is such a foundation of society, the law gives them this additional protection. Therefore, whatever the relationship to the child may be, if a person knows or reasonably suspects that the child is being abused or neglected, they must report this fact. Otherwise, they can be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense.

When Not to Call DCYF

It’s important to distinguish between imminent safety concerns and less severe issues that, while frustrating, do not pose a direct risk to your child’s safety. These include:

1. Parenting Style Differences

Disagreements over everyday parenting styles, such as bedtime routines, dietary preferences, or screen time, generally do not necessitate DCYF intervention unless they directly compromise the child’s health or safety.

2. Interparental Conflict

Personal conflicts between parents, including dissatisfaction with the ex-partner’s new significant other, or disagreements over visitation schedules, are typically not grounds for DCYF involvement unless they directly affect the child’s safety.

3. Litigation Tactic

Unfortunately, some parents have made false, exaggerated, or frivolous reports of child abuse against the other parent in order to try to get an advantage in their custody litigation, or out of revenge for past relationship disputes. Suffice to say, such false reporting is illegal and unethical. How often such false reports occur is up for reasonable debate — some believe it is a frequent event, while others believe it is rare and most reports are in good faith. Regardless, the fact that such false reports occur in any amount, places all the valid reports under more heavy scrutiny, meaning some of those get overlooked or ignored when they shouldn’t. Even more tragic is that some of these false reports have been convincing to DCYF workers or judges, leading to innocent parents having their parenting rights unfairly limited, or even going to jail.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help

Navigating the decision to call DCYF can be emotionally and legally complex. Here’s how a family law attorney can assist:

1. Assessing the Situation

An experienced attorney can help you understand the severity of the situation and whether it meets the legal criteria for involving DCYF. They can provide guidance based on the specifics of your case and help you document any incidents that may need to be reported.

2. Legal Advice on Reporting

If there is a need to contact DCYF, your attorney can advise you on the proper way to report your concerns. They can help ensure that your report is clear, factual, and substantiated, which is crucial for a proper investigation by DCYF.

3. Representation and Support

Should the situation escalate or require legal intervention, your attorney will represent your interests and those of your child. This includes dealing with custody modifications, court appearances, and interacting with DCYF on your behalf.

4. Mediation and Communication

In cases where the concerns are not severe enough to warrant DCYF involvement but still require addressing, an attorney can facilitate mediation between you and your ex-partner. This can help improve communication and parenting practices without escalating the conflict.

Deciding whether to call DCYF about safety concerns at your ex’s home is a significant decision. While the safety of your child is always the top priority, it’s essential to ensure that any claims made to DCYF are serious and backed by evidence. A New Hampshire family law attorney can provide invaluable guidance, helping you to navigate this challenging situation responsibly and effectively. Remember, the goal is to ensure the wellbeing of your child, and sometimes, achieving this requires professional guidance and legal insight.

If you find yourself trying to get through a family law situation, contact our team for help. With decades of experience consistent 5-star reviews, you can rest assured we’ll work to bring you the best resolution possible.

Should I Call DCYF Regarding My Ex’s House?


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