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

July 8, 2008

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
M.M., DEFENDANT,
AND
K.S.S., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF K.S.S., JR., AND L.S., MINORS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, No. FG-12-59-07.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 14, 2008

Before Judges Wefing, Parker and Kestin.

Defendant K.S.S. appeals from a trial court judgment terminating his parental rights to his two sons, K.S.S., Jr., now three years old, and L.S., now two years old. Their mother, M.M., made an identified surrender and has not participated in this appeal. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

K.S.S. raises one argument on appeal:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN TERMINATING THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF THE DEFENDANT AS DYFS FAILED TO PROVE BY CLEAR & CONVINCING EVIDENCE THE FOUR PRONG TEST OUTLINED IN N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)

A. The evidence adduced at trial did not support the court's finding that the State met prong one of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)

B. The evidence adduced at trial did not support the court's finding that the State met prong two of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)

C. The evidence adduced at trial did not support the court's finding that the State met prong four of N.J.S.A. 2C:30-15.1(a)

Defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to the third prong.

Although a parent's right to maintain a relationship with his or her child is fundamental and of constitutional dimension, it is not absolute. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 279 (2007); N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.W., 103 N.J. 591, 599 (1986). The State, as parens patriae, "has a responsibility to protect the welfare of children and may terminate parental rights if the child is at risk of serious physical or emotional harm." M.M., supra, 189 N.J. at 279.

A court may not, however, terminate that relationship unless the State has proven four elements: that the parental relationship has endangered the child's safety, health or development; that the parent is unable or unwilling to alleviate that harm or provide a safe and stable home for the child; that the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) has made reasonable efforts to help the parent and that the court has considered whether there are reasonable alternatives to ...


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