Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Guardianship of S.C.

Decided: March 12, 1991.

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.C.


Michels, Gruccio and D'Annunzio. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.

Michels

[246 NJSuper Page 415] Appellant L.C., the natural mother of S.C., appeals from (1) a judgment of the Chancery Division, Family Part that (a) terminated her parental rights, and those of A.V., with respect to the minor child, S.C.; (b) placed S.C. in the guardianship and control of respondent New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services

(Division) for all purposes, including placement for adoption; (c) denied her motions for birthday visitation and for unsupervised contact with S.C., and (d) directed the immediate cessation of visitation between her, A.V. and S.C., except for one last visit at the Division's office, and (2) from a postjudgment order that denied her motion to compel the Division to pay her experts' fees.

L.C. seeks a reversal of the judgment and order on the following grounds set forth in her brief:

I. L.C.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS MAY NOT BE TERMINATED ON THE BASIS OF N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15 SINCE L.C. HAS DILIGENTLY MAINTAINED CONTACT WITH HER DAUGHTER AND PLANNED FOR HER FUTURE.

II. S.'S BEST INTERESTS DO NOT REQUIRE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS. L.C. SHOULD RETAIN HER PARENTAL RIGHTS AND ASSUME SUPERVISED CUSTODY OF S. HOWEVER, L.C.'S RETENTION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS DOES NOT NECESSARILY REQUIRE THAT SHE ASSUME CUSTODY OF S. L.C. MAY RETAIN HER PARENTAL RIGHTS AND S. MAY YET REMAIN IN THE FOSTER FATHER'S PHYSICAL CUSTODY, WITH L.C. AFFORDED VISITATION RIGHTS.

A. THE PROOFS ARE INSUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT PARENTAL RIGHTS SHOULD BE TERMINATED OR THAT L.C. SHOULD LOSE CUSTODY OF HER DAUGHTER. AT THE LEAST, A REMAND IS REQUIRED FOR FURTHER REVIEW.

A1. APPELLANT'S HABITS ARE NOT SUCH AS TO INFLICT UPON HER DAUGHTER THE KIND OF SERIOUS HARM CONTEMPLATED BY A.W. NOR HAS THE STATE PROVEN BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT SHE CANNOT CARE FOR HER DAUGHTER'S MEDICAL NEEDS OR THAT S. WILL SUFFER SERIOUS EMOTIONAL HARM IF REMOVED FROM THE FOSTER HOME.

A2. APPELLANT IS WILLING TO COMPLY WITH REASONABLE SUPERVISORY SERVICES NECESSARY TO ELIMINATE POTENTIAL HARM TO S.

B. L.C. MAY RETAIN PARENTAL RIGHTS EVEN IF SHE IS NOT AWARDED CUSTODY OF S., SO LONG AS HER VISITS POSE NO THREAT OF HARM TO THE CHILD. S. MAY REMAIN IN THE FOSTER FATHER'S PHYSICAL CUSTODY PURSUANT TO AN ORDER THAT ESTABLISHES A LONG-TERM FOSTER CARE RELATIONSHIP, GRANTS THE FOSTER FATHER CUSTODY, OR VESTS HIM WITH GUARDIANSHIP POWERS. L.C. MAY THEN CONTINUE TO VISIT S.

B1. PARENTAL RIGHTS ARE DIVISIBLE INTO DEGREES OF CUSTODY AND VISITATION AND CANNOT BE TERMINATED WHILE A PARENT

REMAINS CAPABLE OF EXERCISING ANY SUBSTANTIAL OR MEANINGFUL COMPONENT OF THESE RIGHTS. THUS, INABILITY TO ASSUME CUSTODY OF A CHILD DOES NOT TERMINATE A PARENT'S RIGHT TO VISITATION SO LONG AS VISITATION IS NOT HARMFUL TO THE CHILD. THIS IS THE TRADITIONAL VIEW THAT FAMILY LAW, EVER RELUCTANT TO TERMINATE THE RIGHTS OF EVEN HIGHLY DISRUPTIVE PARENTS, TAKES OF PARENTAL RIGHTS. IT IS THE VIEW OF PARENTAL RIGHTS THAT THE LEGISLATURE HAD IN MIND WHEN IT ENACTED THE STATUTORY SCHEME FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS.

B2. L.C.'S VISITS WITH S. POSE NO THREAT OF HARM TO THE CHILD. THEREFORE, HER PARENTAL RIGHTS SHOULD NOT BE TERMINATED AND SHE SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO CONTINUE VISITING HER DAUGHTER.

B3. L.C. BEING PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF CONTINUING TO VISIT HER DAUGHTER WITHOUT HARMING HER, THE CRITERIA OF A.W. HAVE NOT BEEN MET, AND PARENTAL RIGHTS CANNOT BE TERMINATED.

1. THE PARENTAL RELATIONSHIP DOES NOT SERIOUSLY IMPAIR S.'S HEALTH OR DEVELOPMENT.

2. SINCE VISITATION IS NOT HARMFUL TO S., THUS, THERE IS NO HARM FOR L.C. TO ELIMINATE. FURTHERMORE, NO DELAY OF PERMANENT PLACEMENT IS NECESSARY.

3. PERMANENT PLACEMENT WITH THE FOSTER FATHER AND VISITATION RIGHTS FOR L.C. IS THE APPROPRIATE ALTERNATIVE TO TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS.

4. TERMINATING L.C.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD BECAUSE IT WILL SEVER S.'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ONLY MOTHER SHE HAS, AND WILL DO SO WITHOUT ANY COMPENSATING GAIN FOR THE CHILD.

B4. THE FOSTER FATHER MAY RETAIN CUSTODY OF S. PURSUANT TO AN ORDER THAT ESTABLISHES A LONG-TERM FOSTER CARE RELATIONSHIP, GRANTS HIM CUSTODY, OR VESTS HIM WITH GUARDIANSHIP POWERS.

C. THE DECISION BELOW TO TERMINATE ALL OF APPELLANT'S PARENTAL RIGHTS, EVEN HER LIMITED RIGHT TO VISIT HER CHILD, CONSTITUTES A DENIAL TO HER OF A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT UNDER THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION AND UNDER ARTICLE I, PARAGRAPH 1 OF OUR STATE CONSTITUTION.

D. THE DECISION BELOW TO TERMINATE ALL OF APPELLANT'S RIGHTS, EVEN HER RIGHT OF VISITATION, CONSTITUTES A DENIAL TO HER OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS UNDER THE FEDERAL AND STATE CONSTITUTIONS.

III. IF L.C.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS ARE TERMINATED, SHE SHOULD STILL BE ALLOWED TO VISIT HER DAUGHTER. THERE IS NO

LEGAL BAR TO VISITATION, AND A RANGE OF ALTERNATIVE PLACEMENTS (LONG-TERM FOSTER CARE, OR GRANTING CUSTODY, GUARDIANSHIP, OR ADOPTION TO THE FOSTER FATHER) CAN AFFORD S. THE PERMANENCE SHE NEEDS WHILE PERMITTING L.C. TO VISIT.

A. N.J.S.A. 30:4C:22, WHICH ADDRESS DYFS' GUARDIANSHIP AUTHORITY, DOES NOT AFFORD DYFS SOLE JURISDICTION OVER THE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN FOLLOWING TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS. TO THE CONTRARY, THE STATUTORY SCHEME FOR ASSURING THE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN ENVISIONS CONTINUED JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT OF PLACEMENTS TO THE TIME OF ADOPTION AND PERMITS THE COURT TO ORDER VISITATION WITH A NATURAL PARENT EVEN AFTER TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS AND TO CONDITION POST-TERMINATION PLACEMENTS, INCLUDING ADOPTION, UPON SUCH VISITATION.

B. LONG-TERM FOSTER CARE, OR THE GRANTING OF CUSTODY, GUARDIANSHIP OR ADOPTION TO THE FOSTER FATHER ARE ALL LEGALLY PERMISSIBLE OPTIONS. EACH OF THEM WOULD AFFORD S. WHATEVER PERMANENCE SHE REQUIRES WHILE PERMITTING APPELLANT TO VISIT.

IV. DEFENDANT, FACING LOSS OF HER CHILD, COULD NOT PREPARE A PROPER DEFENSE WITHOUT EXPERT ASSISTANCE IN MEETING THE COMPLEX PSYCHOLOGICAL AND MEDICAL TESTIMONY INTRODUCED AGAINST HER. THUS, RETENTION OF EXPERTS AT STATE EXPENSE IS REASONABLY NECESSARY, OTHERWISE INDIGENT DEFENDANTS WILL FUNCTION AT A MARKED DISADVANTAGE TO BOTH FINANCIALLY WELL-OFF DEFENDANTS AND THE STATE.

I.

We are satisfied from our study of the record and the arguments presented that substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole reasonably warrants the trial court's findings and conclusions that termination of L.C.'s and A.V.'s parental rights is in the best interest of S.C., that S.C. be committed to the Division's guardianship, care, custody and control and that visitation is inappropriate based upon the harm that has occurred or would befall S.C. by continued contact with L.C. or A.V. We discern no sound reason or justification for disturbing these findings and conclusions. Leimgruber v. Claridge Assocs., Ltd., 73 N.J. 450, 455-56, 375 A.2d 652 (1977); Rova Farms Resorts, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 65 N.J. 474, 483-84,

323 A.2d 495 (1974); State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 163-64, 199 A.2d 809 (1964). See also R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A). Moreover, all of the issues of law raised are clearly without merit. See R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

The termination of L.C.'s and A.V.'s parental rights with respect to S.C. complied with the four prong test set forth by our Supreme Court in New Jersey Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 604-10, 512 A.2d 438 (1986). First, the evidence proved clearly and convincingly that the parental relationships seriously impaired S.C.'s health and development. The proofs show that L.C. is unable to meet S.C.'s medical needs. Therefore, placing S.C. in L.C.'s custody would place S.C.'s life and health at serious risk. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.