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Division of Youth and Family Services v. J.J.

February 11, 2009

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



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Salem County, Docket No. FG-17-40-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 6, 2009

Before Judges Winkelstein and Fuentes.

Defendant J.J. is the biological father of M.J., a boy born on July 17, 2001. J.J. appeals from the judgment of the Family Part terminating his parental rights to his son, and awarding guardianship of the child to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). This matter came before the trial court by way of complaints for guardianship filed by DYFS against J.J. and C.G.*fn1, the mother of M.J. Judge Fineman tried both cases together in a single trial, and issued a written opinion articulating his findings and conclusions of law as to both parents. On C.G.'s direct appeal, we affirmed the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. C.G., No. A-6549-06 (App. Div. June 24, 2008).

In this appeal, J.J. argues that DYFS did not present sufficient evidence to warrant the termination of his parental rights under the statutory criteria outlined in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1. We reject this argument and affirm. Because the case against J.J. and the case against C.G. have a common procedural history and share many of the core facts that have touched the life of M.J., we incorporate by reference our narrative of the procedural history and facts found in our opinion affirming the termination of C.G.'s parental rights. Id. at slip op., at 4-9.

The standards governing our review of the trial court's opinion are well-settled. In reviewing a trial court's decision to terminate parental rights, we must determine whether the trial judge's findings of fact are supported by adequate, substantial, and credible evidence in the record. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. G.L., 191 N.J. 596, 605 (2007) (citing In re Guardianship of J.T., 269 N.J. Super. 172, 188 (App. Div. 1993)). The review process is, of necessity, extremely fact sensitive, requiring that each particularized piece of evidence match up to the specific circumstance for which it is offered. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 280 (2007).

To terminate parental rights, DYFS must demonstrate the following four statutory elements by clear and convincing evidence:

(1) The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;

(2) The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family parents would cause serious and enduring emotional or psychological harm to the child;

(3) The division has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home and the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights; and

(4) Termination of parental rights will not do more ...


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