May 28, 2010
DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF G.S. AND C.S., JR., MINORS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FG-09-170-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: April 28, 2010
Before Judges Stern, Sabatino and J. N. Harris.
Defendant C.S. appeals from the termination of his parental rights to his daughter, G.S., and his son, C.S., Jr. Defendant asserts that the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) did not prove prongs one, two, and four of the statutory best interests test, N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1a.
In N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. A.R., 405 N.J. Super. 418 (App. Div. 2009), we rejected the appeal of DYFS from the trial judge's decision not to terminate the parental rights of the mother, A.R.*fn1 Our opinion in A.R. explained the role of defendant with respect to A.R.'s prior drug use and the need to isolate C.S. from A.R. and the children in order to make reunification with A.R. a success. In the words of the trial judge, C.S.'s "behavior during the lives of his children created most of the problems in this matter. His actions played a major and significant role in disrupting reunification."
C.S.'s children are now almost seven and four years old. Defendant is now a fifty-one-year-old drug addict who has been arrested seventeen times as an adult. He was serving a sentence for robbery at the time of the trial.
Dr. Daniel Bromberg, who performed a psychological evaluation of A.R. and defendant, did not feel defendant could ever provide a stable home for the children. According to Dr. Bromberg, defendant was rarely physically present, he could not parent "emotionally and psychologically," and he acts "[ir]rationally and uses poor judgment." Bromberg also testified that C.S. has a "poor prognosis for staying out of trouble," reducing his drug dependence, or controlling his "temper outbursts that turn into uncontrollable rage."*fn2
Dr. Bromberg also conducted a bonding evaluation of defendant with his children and concluded that while there was "a strong emotional bond" between defendant and G.S., and "she would experience psychological harm" by termination, it would not be "severe and enduring" if she received "appropriate psychological services." Moreover, defendant "had no bond whatsoever" with C.S., Jr. as he had seen him only once before defendant's last incarceration.
Dr. Gerard Figuerelli testified for defendant and said defendant could become stable if he continued in a long-range drug program, but he never had achieved stability previously and was then in prison. Dr. Figuerelli testified about his psychological evaluation of defendant and testified as to the conclusion:
One was that at the time that I evaluated him, he required formal mental health treatment for a number of psychological issues that he was experiencing that I identified in the report of the evaluation.
I also concluded that he required formal intensive substance abuse treatment in a program that worked with individuals that had substance [ab]use disorders and concomitant mental health disorders. And I concluded that if he were able to get the type of substance abuse treatment that he required, the ongoing mental health treatment that he needed, and, of course, if he abstained from all psycho-active substance use and involvement in any illegal activity that, at that time, he would be able to act in a supportive parenting role.
He estimated that a minimum of a year of intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment was required following defendant's release after he became eligible for parole in June 2009. Defendant wanted to play a "supportive role" while the children lived with A.R.
In his written decision, Judge Mark J. Nelson noted defendant's long-term drug abuse and criminal record, and that he violated court orders and "has absolutely no relationship with [C.S., Jr.] and never visited him since being placed outside the home in 2006." The judge also indicated that the harm to G.S. from termination, according to Dr. Bromberg, "would not be severe and enduring," that there was a need for permanency and stability in the children's lives, and that given defendant's imprisonment and need for drug counseling before any reunification could occur, termination was required. Moreover, Judge Nelson evaluated the doctors' reports and their credibility and analyzed each prong of the best interests test as to each child.
We recognize that the children remain with their mother, and that the usual need to expedite termination may not exist, as there will be no adoption proceeding. However, the trial judge's fact findings and decision that termination solely as to this defendant is warranted requires our deference. A.R., supra, 405 N.J. Super. at 433. See also, N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. G.L., 191 N.J. 596, 605 (2007); N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 189 N.J. 261, 279 (2007). Moreover, as Judge Nelson stated:
It might seem to some that on its face that termination of one parent's right but not the other's is illogical and does nothing to further the goal of permanency. However, the court agrees with the Law Guardian that this case is different. . . . . As to the defendant, [C.S.], his behavior during the lives of his children created most of the problems in this matter. His actions played a major and significant role in disrupting reunification on both occasions. He has absolutely no bond or attachment to his son[,] [C.S., Jr.]. He has some attachment to his daughter, [G.S.]. It would be best if he did not have any rights to his children so that he could not enforce visitation and again disrupt a reunification with their mother.
There is ample support in the record reflecting that permanency and stability would only be achieved in that fashion. See Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.M., 382 N.J. Super. 264, 281-84 (App. Div. 2006) (upholding termination as to one of two parents), rev'd on other grounds, 189 N.J. 261 (2007) (circumstances required termination of both parents).*fn3
The judgment is affirmed substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Nelson's opinion of April 2, 2008.