On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FN-07-330-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fisher and Sapp-Peterson.
Defendant V.P. is the mother of three children. At the time of the events that led to their removal from her home, the children were nine years old, seven years old and five months old. At the end of a fact-finding hearing, the judge concluded the children were abused or neglected within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4). Services were provided to remedy the circumstances, the children were returned home, and the action dismissed. Defendant appeals the order finding the children to have been abused or neglected.
The allegation of abuse or neglect here revolved mainly on the condition of defendant's home. After finding that the Division caseworker was credible and that V.P.'s testimony "was not truthful, not credible," and based upon what was depicted in photographs of the home admitted into evidence, the judge determined that the home was filthy, cluttered with food everywhere including the baby's bassinet where the child reportedly did not sleep, dirty dishes in the sink, cat feces on the floor in the kitchen, clothing and bags of clothing all over the floor, broken mini-blinds, large speakers were placed where the children could pull them down on top of themselves, rodent and insect infestation found, scissors and a knife were in reach of the children, and doorways were blocked with trash and other obstacles that the children could hurt themselves on. Recognizing that there need not be a showing that an injury had actually occurred, In re Guardianship of D.M.H., 161 N.J. 365, 383 (1999), but only that the parent created a "probability of present or future harm," N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. S.S., 372 N.J. Super. 13, 24 (App. Div. 2004), certif. denied, 182 N.J. 426 (2005), the judge concluded, in applying the preponderance standard, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46(b), that the children were abused or neglected within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 9:6- 8.21(c)(4).
In appealing, defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of abuse or neglect. That contention has no merit. The judge's findings are fully supported by evidence in the record that he was entitled to find credible. As a result, we are obliged to defer to the judge's findings of fact. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. G.M., 198 N.J. 382, 401 (2009); Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 413 (1998). The judge's conclusions of law were also based upon a correct understanding of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4).
© 1992-2010 VersusLaw ...