On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No FN-18-174-09.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Koblitz, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 10, 2011
Before Judges Fuentes, Graves and Koblitz.
The opinion of the court was delivered by KOBLITZ, J.A.D.
R.S., father of R.S. (fictitiously, Robin), appeals the April 30, 2010 order finding that he neglected eleven-year-old Robin by testing positive for cocaine and marijuana at two visits supervised by the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we are constrained to reverse.
Robin was born in May 2000. R.S. is also the father of A.R., (fictitiously, Alan), a son born nine months after Robin to a different mother. Each child resides with their respective mother.*fn1
On September 13, 2001, R.S. pled guilty to two counts of possession of drugs with the intent to distribute on or near a school, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released from prison in May 2005.
The Division first investigated this family in September 2005, when R.S. and Robin's mother, V.T., argued during a visitation drop-off. At some point, R.S. grabbed and twisted Robin's arm. Robin's mother took her to the emergency room, where the doctor noticed redness and bruising on Robin's arm consistent with grabbing and reported the incident to the Division. The Division substantiated the abuse based on the accounts of Robin and V.T.,*fn2 and closed its case in December. After this incident, V.T. obtained a domestic violence restraining order against R.S.
On August 8, 2008, the South River Police Department reported to the Middlesex County Office of the Division that R.S. struck Alan's face and buttocks during a visit. R.S. admitted to the Division worker that he stopped the car and spanked Alan on his bare bottom. Alan confirmed the incident and stated that his father also slapped his face earlier that day. R.S. explained that Alan's grades were in jeopardy, and R.S. did not want him to fail out of school. He purchased extra workbooks for Alan, who had not completed the pages his father told him to complete. As punishment, R.S. spanked Alan. Robin was also present in the car.
R.S. acknowledged that he was corporally punished as a child. His caseworker recommended a course in parenting skills to educate him in proper child discipline techniques.
R.S. was subsequently charged with simple assault. The Middlesex County Family Court ordered the suspension of R.S.'s visits with Alan in an action commenced by Alan's mother. Although the Division substantiated abuse against Alan, it did not file a complaint for abuse and neglect.
Also in August 2008, Preferred Child Services (PCS) recommended that R.S. undergo Level 1 outpatient treatment for marijuana abuse. On January 8, 2009, the Division contacted R.S. about his failure to attend the recommended drug treatment. He stated that he completed parenting skills and anger management courses ordered by the family court, ...