This matter comes before the court by way of complaint by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, filed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21, N.J.S.A. 30:4C:12 and R. 5:12-1, alleging parental abuse and neglect of a minor child. The facts, stipulated by all parties, give rise to the novel issue, yet undecided by our reported case law, as to whether parental acquiescence to and tacit encouragement of consensual sexual relations between the thirteen-year-old daughter and her nineteen-year-old paramour constitute abuse and neglect of the minor child as defined by N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 (c)(3) and (c)(4)(b). This court decides the issue in the affirmative.
These are the stipulated facts.
Defendants RW and LW reside with their three children, JW (age fifteen), DW (age fourteen) and TW (age five). DW was born on November 5, 1979. At all times pertinent hereto, the children have remained in the custody, care and supervision of their parents (hereinafter referred to as "Defendants"). The Defendants' household is a single family home in which the Defendants and their children have resided for approximately six years.
On September 23, 1993, Defendant LW and her daughter, DW, then age thirteen, appeared before this court, on the record, in the presence of and accompanied by CB, then age nineteen and the
paramour of DW, seeking written approval, by this court, for the marriage of DW and CB. More specifically, DW, her mother and the paramour sought judicial waiver of the minimum age requirements contained in N.J.S.A. 37:1-6. In support of this application, Defendant LW submitted a handwritten certification which contained the reasons for the application. Although no complaint was filed, the matter was treated as an emergent application and assigned Docket Number FD-05-287-94D, encaptioned "In the Matter of D.W., a Minor." The certification read as follows:
I [LW] mother of [DW] ask you to give a waiver in permission for [DW] to get married.
[DW] will soon be 14. Her boyfriend is 19. There's a possible a child is involved. As her parent I feel this man is capable of taking care of her and the possible child. If I didn't feel this way I wouldn't be asking for your permission. I strongly feel this way.
I am a Catholic and I believe a child should be born to both parents and its their responsibility to raise this child. [CW] is employed with a High School education. He is also an E.M.T. for . . . Rescue Squad.
[DW] will continue to finish High School. My Husband and his parents both support their wishes. And hope to have your support in this matter also.
They will continue to live with my husband and I until [DW] finishes school. While they do this they will be saving for a home."
This court denied the application due to the tender age of DW; that decision was not appealed.
On November 17, 1993, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiff") filed this action seeking certain protective relief on behalf of the three children as well as an adjudication that Defendants, as natural parents, had abused and neglected all of the children, generally, and DW, specifically, by virtue of the parents' knowledge, acquiescence and encouragement of, in and for the consensual sexual relationship between DW and her ...