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State v. G.R.

March 18, 2010


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cape May County, Docket No. FN-05-30-08.

Per curiam.



Argued October 20, 2009

Before Judges Skillman, Fuentes and Gilroy.

Defendant G.R. is married to C.R., the biological mother of three children identified here as Claudia, now sixteen years old, Maurice, now fourteen years old, and Frank, soon to be seven years old.*fn1 Only Frank is defendant's biological child. Defendant appeals from the order of the Family Part that found him to have abused two of his children in an action filed by the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS or Division) and that implicitly denied his application for a suspended judgment pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.51. We affirm.

The Division's intervention into this family's affairs was prompted by an incident of domestic violence that occurred on September 2, 2007. Before this date, defendant and C.R. had been experiencing marital difficulties, leading to defendant's voluntary departure from the family residence. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on September 2, 2007, police officers responded to a 911 call made by C.R. alleging that G.R. had returned to the marital residence intoxicated and physically assaulted her, thirteen-year-old Claudia, and four year-old Frank.

We need not describe the particular details of the incident. Suffice it to say that the record shows that defendant entered the family residence highly intoxicated. Once there, he berated and physically assaulted his thirteen year-old stepdaughter. When C.R. attempted to intervene on Claudia's behalf, defendant physically assaulted C.R. and threw her cell phone against the wall to prevent her from calling the police. Defendant also struck his four year-old son across the face. The violence finally ended when C.R. ran out of the house with the children. At this point, defendant took the keys to C.R.'s van and, without her consent, drove away and crashed the vehicle.

Defendant was thereafter arrested and charged with third degree unlawful taking of a means of conveyance, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-10c; third degree resisting arrest, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(3); and three counts of simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1a(1). He was released on bail twelve days later and ordered, as a condition of his bail status, not to have any contact with the "victim." C.R. initially filed a domestic violence complaint and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO); she later requested that the court vacate the restraints.

The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office referred this case to DYFS on September 18, 2007. The Division investigator interviewed each of the children and both parents the following day. The children confirmed the events of September 2, 2007, but denied any prior incidents of violence. According to C.R., while she and defendant sometimes argued, which frightened the children, this "was the first time that this kind of thing ever happened." She also stated that defendant drinks for most of the day once every two or three weeks in the summer, but had no history of illicit drug use. C.R. stated that defendant had stopped drinking and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Defendant explained that he routinely drank once or twice per month and admitted to drinking on the day of the incident. Although he acknowledged that he had "crossed the limit this time," he claimed to have no recollection of what occurred between arriving home and crashing the car. The Division investigator advised the parties that defendant had to leave the marital home until otherwise directed. Both parents signed a Safety Protection Plan acknowledging the restriction.

On October 2, 2007, DYFS filed a verified complaint for care and supervision with restraints, alleging that the children had been abused and/or neglected as a result of the September 2, 2007, incident. DYFS directed defendant to contact a case worker for random drug screens and referred him to anger management counseling as well as intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment.

The matter first came before the Family Part on October 18, 2007. DYFS requested that legal custody and supervision of the children remain with the Division and asked for the continuation of restraints preventing defendant from entering the family residence and having unsupervised contacts with the children. DYFS also requested that the court order defendant to participate in Division-sponsored services; the Law Guardian joined in the Division's application.

Defendant, through counsel, requested that he be allowed to return home, or that C.R. be allowed to supervise his visitation with the children, particularly at church. He also requested that DYFS provide services for the children. Defendant's counsel characterized the incident of September 2, 2007, as an aberration brought on by alcohol abuse. Counsel ...

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