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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. C.K

December 29, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Atlantic County, Docket No. FN-01-000181-10.

Per curiam.



Argued December 5, 2011

Before Judges Sabatino, Ashrafi and Fasciale.

Defendant-mother C.K. appeals from a January 27, 2011 final disposition order of an abuse and neglect complaint filed by the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). By that order, defendant-mother waived her right to a fact finding hearing and agreed that she is a parent in need of services, and DYFS agreed to remove her from the Central Child Abuse Registry. See N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.11. Mother challenges the parts of the order that continued temporary custody of her daughter in Texas with the child's father, defendant J.E., and ceded jurisdiction to the courts of Texas to decide the contested custody dispute between mother and father. Having determined that the Family Part correctly applied the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), N.J.S.A. 2A:34-53 to -95, we affirm.


Father and mother were divorced in Texas on February 21, 2006. The child has lived periodically in Texas and New Jersey since her birth in Texas in October 2004. Following the divorce, the child lived in New Jersey with her mother and her boyfriend, defendant M.T., but she also lived for months at a time with her maternal grandparents in Texas. The child's father continued to live in Texas.

On September 4, 2009, the Galveston County, Texas court entered a consent order modifying the custody and related parenting arrangements for mother and father. The order indicates that both were represented by attorneys and that they had reached agreement through mediation. The Texas court found it had "continuing exclusive jurisdiction" of the custody case, although it also designated New Jersey as the child's home state. In seventeen single-spaced pages, the order confirmed that the parents had the equivalent of New Jersey's joint legal custody, and it established a tightly-detailed parenting plan and schedule as well as the financial support obligations of the parties.

With respect to where the child would reside, the order stated that mother "shall have the exclusive right to designate the child's primary residence within either the State of Texas or the State of New Jersey." After entry of the consent order, the child lived in Texas with her maternal grandparents through the end of 2009. On or about January 1, 2010, mother took the child back to live with her and her boyfriend in Atlantic County, New Jersey.

In April 2010, DYFS in New Jersey took temporary custody of the child by means of emergency removal from mother's home pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.29 and -8.30. DYFS filed an order to show cause and a complaint for temporary custody alleging abuse or neglect of the child after incidents of domestic violence in the home were reported to the police on April 26, 2010.

According to the DYFS complaint, the police were called to the home twice on that date, the first time in the early morning hours shortly after midnight. The police reported that mother had punched her boyfriend during an argument and he had responded by hitting her in the face and kicking her head. The boyfriend accused the mother of being intoxicated. Mother may have lost consciousness for some minutes as a result of the fight. The second police call was in the evening of April 26 in response to an allegation that the boyfriend had kicked mother in the stomach because she had not prepared dinner when he expected it. Mother refused to seek a restraining order, but the police arrested the boyfriend nevertheless and filed criminal charges against him.

The DYFS complaint alleged further that mother had significant bruising around her eye, but she denied her boyfriend was to blame. Both mother and boyfriend claimed she had been injured in an accidental fall. DYFS also determined that a prior assault had occurred in September 2009 when the boyfriend smashed a computer screen into mother's face because he did not approve of an internet site she was viewing.

Despite advice from DYFS to protect herself and her child, mother intended to seek dismissal of the charges against her boyfriend, as she had done previously, and to seek lifting of a no contact order against him. She wanted her boyfriend back home and did not believe her daughter would be harmed. Mother acknowledged to DYFS that she had previously been hospitalized for a mental ...

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