On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Ocean County, Docket No. FM-15-1203-97-W.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner and Alvarez.
This is an appeal from a January 11, 2008 order affirming requirements previously imposed upon defendant Susan Haas, now known as Susan Sykes, which had to be met before visitation with her child would resume. We affirm.
Plaintiff Thomas Haas and defendant had one child born on June 14, 1995, months after their separation. They divorced in 1997. The child lived with her mother from birth until February 19, 2004, when she was removed from her mother's care and placed with her father by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division). It is undisputed that defendant suffers from schizophrenia. She receives social security disability, has been hospitalized on numerous occasions, and has been jailed in the past as a result of legal difficulties precipitated by her delusional state.
On October 27, 2004, Judge Segal issued an order requiring that any future visitation between defendant and the child be supervised by a maternal aunt. The order, which was issued as a result of defendant's application for return of custody, stated that no modification of the visitation order would be made unless defendant provided an "updated and complete psychiatric evaluation." Between that date and 2005, defendant saw her daughter six times.
From May to November 2005, defendant was incarcerated in Pennsylvania on a charge of stalking, resulting from her delusion that she and an acquaintance were engaged. These charges were ultimately dismissed. From November 2005 to February 2006, she was hospitalized in Ancora.
On June 16, 2006, Judge Hoffman denied another motion filed by defendant seeking a return of custody based on entirely unfounded claims that plaintiff and his family were abusing and neglecting the child. In the order, the court references the "numerous" times that defendant complained to the Division and local police departments about these claims, which were a product of defendant's delusional state. The court noted on the order that it had reviewed a psychiatric report from a Dr. Black dated January 28, 2005, which it did not consider to be "recent."
On September 8, 2006, defendant again sought custody of the parties' child based on her unsupported belief that the child was being abused. The order states: "Should the DYFS investigation reveal that the allegations are unfounded, any contact between [defendant] and the child shall be immediately terminated until further Order of the Court." Although not entirely clear from the record, it was presumably this order that stopped all visitation between mother and child.
It is also unclear how many times defendant has attempted to reinstate contact with her child since her discharge from Ancora in February 2006, either through the filing of pro se motions for custody and visitation, similar motions filed by counsel, or direct contact with personnel at the courthouse. It is clear, however, that she has done so repeatedly.
On June 21, 2007, an emergent hearing was conducted as a result of defendant's pro se application for custody. The ensuing order stated that due to her mental health issues and the number of "previously filed similar applications," defendant would be required to attach current psychiatric reports to any future applications for custody or visitation. At the June 21, 2007 hearing, testimony was taken from Division staff.
On July 16, 2007, a final domestic violence order (FRO) restraining defendant from contact with plaintiff, his family, and the child was entered. An order was issued under the FM docket a few days later on July 27, 2007, directing the Ventnor police to take defendant for a commitment screening as she had made "repeated telephone calls to the court and ...