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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. P.M.

July 8, 2008

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
P.M., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF L.M., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FG-02-59-07.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 10, 2008

Before Judges Stern, Coburn and Waugh.

This appeal concerns the termination of parental rights between P.M., the mother of ten children, and L.M., her tenth child, who was born in September 2005.*fn1 P.M. and her other children have a lengthy history of involvement with the Division of Youth and Family Services (hereinafter "Division" or "DYFS").

She has lost custody of all of her other children, with the exception of one child who died in early infancy as the result of abuse by D.K., the child's father and P.M.'s paramour. P.M. also has a lengthy history of mental illness, which has severely interfered with her ability to care properly for her children.

Following a three-day trial in August 2007, Judge Birger M. Sween issued a written decision in which he set forth his findings of fact and conclusions of law, including the following:

The evidence is clear and convincing that: (1) [P.M.] has not overcome her mental disorders that caused her to abuse and neglect eight of her older children, that [L.M.] would be at substantial risk if returned to her custody, and that [L.M.]'s father, whomever he may be, cannot be found; (2) the Division was properly relieved of any obligation to provide services to [P.M.] due to her history of termination of her parental rights to other children; (3) the Division made reasonable efforts to find relatives to care for [L.M.]; (4) [L.M.]'s best interest will be served by termination of his parents' parental rights to free him for adoption; and (5) the termination of his parents' parental rights will not do more harm than good.

Judge Sween entered an order terminating the parental rights and awarding guardianship to the Division on August 28, 2007.

On this appeal, P.M. raises the following issues:

POINT I: THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION TO TERMINATE P.M.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS IS NOT SUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE BECAUSE [DYFS] HAS NOT SHOWN THAT P.M. HARMED L.M. WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE STATUTE, THAT SHE IS UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO PARENT L.M. OR THAT TERMINATION OF HER PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.

POINT II: THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO SAFEGUARD P.M.'S PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WHERE THE LITIGATION WAS CONDUCTED IN A PERFUNCTORY AND BIASED MANNER.

I. THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION TO TERMINATE P.M.'S PARENTAL RIGHTS IS NOT SUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE BECAUSE THE DIVISION HAS NOT SHOWN THAT P.M. HARMED L.M. WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE STATUTE, THAT SHE IS UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO PARENT L.M. OR THAT TERMINATION OF HER PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD TO L.M..

A. THE TRIAL COURT'S FINDING THAT P.M. CAUSED HARM TO L.M. IS UNWARRANTED WHERE THERE HAS BEEN NO ACTUAL HARM TO L.M. AND THE EVIDENCE THAT P.M.'S MENTAL STATE MAY POSSIBLY ...


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