On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-17-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 12, 2011
Before Judges Axelrad, R. B. Coleman and Lihotz.
Defendant S.C., the biological mother of A.C., who is the concern of this proceeding, appeals from a May 24, 2010 order terminating her parental rights and awarding a judgment of guardianship to the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) for the purpose of effectuating A.C.'s adoption. We note the parental rights of M.T., A.C.'s biological father, were terminated following the entry of a default judgment, from which he has not appealed.
On appeal, S.C. raises the following issues:
POINT I THE JUDGMENT OF GUARDIANSHIP SHOULD BE REVERSED BECAUSE THE DIVISION'S EVIDENCE WAS NOT COMPELLING ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS UNDER THE CRITERIA OF THE "BEST INTERESTS" TEST.
(A) [S.C.] DID NOT "HARM" A.C. UNDER THE FIRST PRONG AND THE DIVISION'S DECISION TO REMOVE A.C. FROM [S.C.'S] CUSTODY WAS UNRELATED TO BEST INTERESTS CRITERIA.
(B) THE TYPE OF PARENTAL INADEQUACIES IDENTIFIED BY THE DIVISION WERE ATTRIBUTABLE TO PARENTAL "POVERTY" AND DID NOT CONSTITUTE CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE OF PARENTAL "UNFITNESS" UNDER N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1 CRITERIA.
(C) THE TRIAL COURT MISAPPLIED ITS DISCRETION IN FINDING THAT THE DIVISION PROVED THE THIRD PRONG OF THE BEST INTERESTS TEST BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.
(1) THE DIVISION FAILED TO MAKE "REASONABLE EFFORTS" UNDER THE THIRD PRONG BECAUSE IT WAS NOT COMMITTED TO THE SUCCESS OF ITS REUNIFICATION EFFORT.
(2) THE DIVISION'S EFFORT TO PLACE A.C. WITH HER MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS FELL FAR SHORT OF ITS PARENS PATRIAE RESPONSIBILITIES.
(D) TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS WOULD DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD BECAUSE THERE WERE NO COMPELLING REASONS TO TERMINATE [S.C.'S] PARENTAL RIGHTS.
POINT II THE TRIAL COURT MISAPPLIED ITS DISCRETION IN RELYING SOLELY UPON DR. SINGER'S BONDING EVALUATION IN FINDING THAT TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS WOULD NOT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD BECAUSE DR. SINGER'S FINDINGS WERE NOT BASED ON ...