On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FN-02-321-06.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graves, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lintner, Graves, and Alvarez.
Defendant I.Y.A. is the mother of two sons: T.L. (fictitiously, Tyler), born on July 19, 1994, is now thirteen years old, and K.L. (fictitiously, Kevin), born on January 25, 2000, is now eight years old. I.Y.A. appeals from a fact-finding order entered on November 27, 2006, memorializing the trial court's determination that she "abused or neglected" her children, and a final order entered on December 11, 2006, terminating the protective services litigation and awarding custody of the children to their father, J.L., who resides in Korea.
On appeal, I.Y.A. argues:
THE PROCEEDINGS BELOW VIOLATED DEFENDANT'S CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHTS, DID NOT COMPORT WITH STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS, AND DID NOT RELY UPON COMPETENT, CREDIBLE, ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE.
THE FACT-FINDING HEARING DID NOT COMPORT WITH STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS AND WAS HOPELESSLY INFECTED BY PRIOR PROCEEDINGS THAT DID NOT COMPORT WITH STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS.
THE TRIAL COURT'S FINDING OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT WAS WRONG AND MUST BE REVERSED.
DYFS FAILED TO PROVIDE REASONABLE SERVICES TO I.Y.A.
DISMISSAL OF THE CASE WAS IMPROPER.
THIS MATTER MUST BE REMANDED TO A NEW TRIAL JUDGE.
THIS MATTER MUST BE REMANDED TO A NEW LAW GUARDIAN.
THIS MATTER MUST BE REMANDED TO A NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL.
THIS MATTER MUST BE TURNED OVER TO THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY[']S OFFICE.
I.Y.A. WAS DENIED EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.
Based on our review of the record and the applicable legal standards, we conclude the evidence presented during the fact-finding hearing conducted on August 23 and November 27, 2006, is insufficient to support the determination that I.Y.A. abused or neglected her children. We also agree the protective services litigation should not have been terminated on December 11, 2006, after the father, J.L., returned to Korea with the children in violation of court orders entered on May 8, May 18, and June 8, 2006.
On April 25, 2006, the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) filed a verified complaint and order to show cause alleging Tyler and Kevin required "the protection, care and supervision of the Division." In its complaint, the Division stated its initial contact with I.Y.A. occurred on October 12, 2004, when it received a referral from the Glenpointe Marriott Hotel in Teaneck indicating the cleaning staff found Kevin alone in a room. I.Y.A. told the Division caseworker Kevin was alone for about two and one-half hours, and she said it was the first time she left Kevin alone in the hotel room.
During its investigation, the Division learned from I.Y.A. that she obtained a divorce from J.L. in 2000, and she had a domestic violence final restraining order against him. According to I.Y.A., she owned an import/export business with J.L. prior to their divorce, but he "left the country with the money while she was left with the debt." On September 3, 2002, I.Y.A. obtained a judgment against J.L. in the amount of $2.9 million, representing "arrears from the date of the divorce through August 2002." The Division also learned I.Y.A. and the children were living at the Marriott Hotel for approximately two months.
Based on its investigation, the Division substantiated neglect and I.Y.A. signed a case plan agreeing to fully cooperate with the Division. On July 9, 2005, the Division closed the case "because [I.Y.A.] cooperated with counseling at the Bergen Family Center, became connected with the Korean Love Center, completed ...