On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FG-15-10-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 30, 2007
Before Judges Winkelstein and Yannotti.
Defendant R.T. appeals from an order entered by Judge Ronald E. Hoffman on September 7, 2006, terminating his parental rights to K.M.B. and R.J.B. We affirm.
On September 1, 2004, the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) commenced this action, seeking to terminate defendant's parental rights to K.M.B. and R.J.B. The complaint also sought the termination of the parental rights of C.B., the biological mother of these two children, as well as the parental rights of C.B. and W.J. to two other children, C.M.B. and J.A.B. Judge Hoffman conducted a trial on several dates in March, April, and June 2006.
During the trial, the judge accepted C.B.'s surrender of her parental rights to the four children, contingent upon their adoption by their current foster parents. The court also accepted the surrender by W.J. of his parental rights to C.M.B. and J.A.B. The only issue remaining before the court was the Division's application for the termination of R.T.'s parental rights to K.M.B. and R.J.B.
Evidence was presented at trial which established that in 1998, C.B. and defendant began living together in a series of apartments in Ocean and Union Counties. R.J.B. was born on August 20, 1999, and K.M.B. was born on January 14, 2001. While they were living together, defendant and C.B. used marijuana and cocaine. Defendant twice attempted to commit suicide. In 1996, defendant had been involuntarily committed because he was a danger to himself or others.
In 2001, C.B. left defendant because he had no job and no prospects for stable employment. Apparently, C.B. and the children continued to visit defendant. On one occasion, C.B. and defendant had an argument and defendant bit C.B.'s arm. C.B. obtained a final restraining order, which required among other things, that defendant pay child support. Defendant only made sporadic child support payments.*fn1
At some point thereafter, C.B. began living with W.J., and they had two children. W.J. later left C.B., and she was forced to care for the four children on her own. In June 2003, one of the Division's case workers visited the family. The case worker saw that C.B. was deteriorating mentally and the children were neglected. C.B. consented to the removal of the children and they were placed in foster care. In July 2003, all four of the children were placed in the same foster home. At that time, R.J.B. was about four years old, and K.M.B. was two-and-one-half years old.
In August 2003, C.B.'s mother contacted defendant and informed him that the children had been placed into foster care. Defendant then contacted C.B. and the Division. C.B. had the restraining order lifted, thereby allowing defendant to visit the children. The Division scheduled a drug test but defendant did not appear. Defendant thereafter had two drug tests and the results were negative.
Visitation began sometime in January or February 2004. In May 2004, defendant submitted a urine sample for drug testing. The Division determined that it had been adulterated but defendant refused to provide another sample. In March 2006, defendant was given a drug test, and the results indicated that he had ingested marijuana.
The judge issued a decision from the bench on September 5, 2006, finding that the Division had proven by clear and convincing evidence all of the criteria required under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a for the termination of R.T.'s parental rights. An order memorializing that ...