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Division of Youth and Family Services v. C.G.

June 24, 2008

DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
C.G., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF J.J.,JR., M.J., AND M.E.J., MINORS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Salem County, FG-17-40-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 15, 2008

Before Judges Winkelstein, Yannotti and LeWinn.

C.G. appeals from an order entered by the Family Part on June 29, 2007, which terminated her parental rights to her three children: J.J., Jr., born June 30, 2000; M.J., born July 17, 2001; and M.E.J., born May 1, 2002. The June 29, 2007 order also terminated the parental rights of J.J., the biological father of M.J.*fn1 That order awarded guardianship of the children to plaintiff, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). We affirm.

On April 24, 2006, DYFS filed a complaint seeking termination of C.G.'s and J.J.'s parental rights. The trial on DYFS's complaint commenced on April 17, 2007, and continued on various dates to June 18, 2007. On June 29, 2007, Judge Darrell M. Fineman rendered a decision finding that DYFS had established by clear and convincing evidence all of the criteria under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a), thereby warranting termination of both parties' parental rights.

On appeal, C.G. raises the following arguments:*fn2

POINT I

THE JUDGMENT OF GUARDIANSHIP TERMINATING THE DEFENDANT'S PARENTAL RIGHTS SHOULD BE REVERSED BECAUSE THE DIVISION FAILED TO CLEARLY AND CONVINCINGLY PROVE THE SECOND, THIRD AND FOURTH PRONGS OF THE BEST INTERESTS TEST

(A) THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE DIVISION PROVED "PARENTAL UNFITNESS" UNDER N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(A) CRITERIA

(B) THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE DIVISION MADE REASONABLE EFFORTS TO PROVIDE REUNIFICATION SERVICES TO THE DEFENDANT UNDER N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(A) CRITERIA

(C) THE TRIAL COURT APPLIED AN IMPROPER "BETTER INTERESTS" DETERMINATION INSTEAD OF THE STATUTORILY AUTHORIZED BEST INTEREST TEST IN FINDING THAT TERMINATION OF DEFENDANT'S PARENTAL RIGHTS WOULD NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD

Having thoroughly reviewed the record, we are convinced that C.G.'s arguments are without merit. Therefore, we affirm the termination of C.G.'s parental rights to J.J., Jr., M.J. and M.E.J. substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Fineman in his written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A). We add the following comments.

I.

DYFS has been involved with C.G. and J.J. in connection with these three children since July 1, 2000, the day after J.J., Jr.'s birth.*fn3 On that date, DYFS received a referral stating that both C.G. and J.J., Jr. had tested positive for cocaine at the infant's birth; in addition, C.G. had had little pre-natal care. J.J., Jr. was temporarily placed with a maternal aunt, but was returned to C.G. and J.J. two months later.

On March 22, 2002, DYFS received another referral, alleging that the police had raided the residence of C.G. and J.J. looking for illegal drugs. J.J. was arrested on that date, and C.G. was referred for substance abuse treatment as the result of a positive urine screen.

On May 1, 2002, J.J. made a referral to DYFS stating that C.G. had prematurely given birth to M.E.J. Although the infant did not test positive for cocaine at birth, C.G. did test positive for cocaine. M.E.J. weighed two pounds two ounces at birth and was placed in intensive care. There was no record of C.G. having had pre-natal care with M.E.J.

On July 21, 2002, DYFS received a referral alleging a domestic violence incident between C.G. and J.J. At that time, J.J. obtained a restraining order against C.G. and she was removed from the home. DYFS had reason to believe that J.J. was allowing C.G. to have contact with the children despite her continued drug use and alcohol consumption and her noncompliance with treatment. DYFS was further concerned that the children ...


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