December 16, 2011
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
IN THE MATTER OF D.H., R.H. AND T.C., MINORS.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket Nos. FN-02-65-11 and FN-09-274-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 28, 2011
Before Judges Parrillo and Grall.
C.H. appeals from a finding of neglect entered against her in a Title 9 action, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.8 to -8.73, filed by the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). In its complaint, the Division alleged C.H. neglected her daughters, D.H. and R.H., by failing to protect them from sexual abuse by their stepfather, R.C. The Division also charged R.C. with abuse. The girls were seventeen and fifteen years old at the time. When the eldest, D.H., reached the age of eighteen, she was dismissed from the case. Thereafter, the litigation was terminated on the ground that the conditions that led the Division to intervene had been remediated.
At the fact-finding hearing, the Division's caseworker testified and the judge admitted into evidence the Division's records, which included evaluations from the Audrey Hepburn Children's House. That evidence was admitted in accordance with N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46 and without objection.
The following evidence supports the judge's determination. D.H. and R.H. reported that R.C. had come into or peeped into the bathroom while they were showering and had touched their breasts. R.H. had seen R.C. touch D.H., and D.H. had seen R.C. peeping at her sister while R.H was showering. R.H. reported that she had told C.H. about the incidents and that her mother responded by arguing with R.C. Although C.H. accused her daughters of lying, she also stated that she knew the truth would come out.
After her initial report of R.C.'s conduct, R.H. recanted. She did so when C.H. called the Division and gave the phone to R.H. R.H. also said she fabricated her allegations on other occasions, but she equivocated. On another occasion she said she felt pressured to recant. D.H., who had moved out of her mother's home, never recanted.
On that evidence, the trial court found that D.H. and R.H. had corroborated each other's accounts, discredited R.H.'s recantation based on the circumstances, and determined that C.H. failed to protect the children after they disclosed R.C.'s conduct to her.
C.H. raises these issues on appeal:
I. The Finding of Abuse/Neglect Against C.H. was Not Supported by Competent Evidence as required by N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.46(b).
II. The Court Erred in Making Determinations Based on the Psychological State of the Younger Daughter in Recanting her Allegation of Sexual Abuse without Evidence in Support Thereof.
The Division and the law guardian urge us to affirm.
We have considered the arguments presented in support of C.H.'s claims and find them without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Appellate courts "will not disturb the family court's decision . . . when there is substantial credible evidence in the record to support the court's findings." N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. E.P., 196 N.J. 88, 104 (2008). We affirm because the judge's determination is based on findings of fact that are adequately supported by the evidence. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A).
© 1992-2011 VersusLaw Inc.