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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. L.

Decided: February 19, 1993.

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.L. IN THE MATTER OF REDFREDDY L., A MINOR



Paley, J.s.c.

Paley

On May 23, 1990, plaintiff New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (herein: "DYFS" or "division") sued for temporary custody of Redfreddy L.,*fn1 born three days earlier. The complaint and initial process were served upon the mother pursuant to the Rules of Court; she has entered no appearance.

This court appointed Marcia L. Hendler, Esquire, as guardian ad litem for Redfreddy, pursuant to R. 5:8B, for the limited purposes of exploring, first, whether this court is authorized to change Redfreddy's first name and, second, whether that change is in Redfreddy's best interests. The guardian's application to change the name was heard by this court on February 19, 1993.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND:

Redfreddy L. was born on May 20, 1990, at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick. His mother had given birth to an older boy, Abraham, in 1984. Upon his release from the hospital, Abraham was first placed in foster care and, nine months later, with maternal relatives.*fn2 During that entire nine month period, the mother was confined to Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic. For much of the next six years and until the present time she has remained at Marlboro.

Following Redfreddy's birth in 1990, the mother did not appear competent to make decisions for herself and the newborn. The mother had no family closer than Florida, and she was estranged from those relatives. She planned to return to the motel where she had been living prior to the birth, although she had exhausted her grant of public assistance and had no inkling of how she and the baby were to live. She had no necessary baby items, except for a stroller.

While at the hospital, she told her doctor that she wanted Redfreddy circumcised; later, she stated that she understood that she was to have been circumcised. She identified Redfreddy's "father" by name; he proved to be only a casual acquaintance who had occasionally waved to the mother through the window of the fast-food restaurant where he worked. This "identification" was apparently delusional. She further stated that she was 200 years old.

DYFS concluded that the mother's history of mental illness and her apparent inability to care for the infant compelled it to act. Therefore, upon Redfreddy's birth, DYFS filed its complaint for custody and related relief, citing both N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 et seq. and N.J.S.A. 30:4C-12 as appropriate authority. After DYFS removed the baby, the mother was committed to Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital where, as noted, she remains.

Redfreddy was placed in a foster home, where he remained for more than two years. In mid-1992, Redfreddy's Florida relatives informed DYFS that they wished to accept him into their home; he was placed there in early February, 1993. Both his foster parents and his Florida relatives have always called him "Andrew". The foster parents asked DYFS to consider changing his name to "Andrew Frederick" some time ago, but DYFS and the Law Guardian were unsure of their capacity to seek such relief in the courts.

LEGAL ANALYSIS:

This court has concluded that it may change the name of a child who is the subject of a DYFS proceeding, consistent with the child's best interests. This court has no doubt that Redfreddy's best interests require the guardian ad litem to institute an appropriate proceeding pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1, et seq., to permit Redfreddy to be known as Andrew Freddy L.

DYFS sues under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21, a definitional section, which defines an "abused or neglected child" as ...


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