On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FG-13-88-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 29, 2012 -
Before Judges Graves, Harris, and Koblitz.
Defendant father Kenneth D. appeals from an April 14, 2011 judgment terminating his parental rights to his daughter Sophia, born in May 2004, and his son Albert, born in April 2005.*fn1
Kenneth contends that the Family Part erred in finding that the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) had demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence all four of the required factors mandated by the best interests of the child test. See N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a). Specifically, he argues that the court mistakenly concluded that (1) he harmed or posed a threat of harm to his children (factor one), (2) he was unwilling or unable to parent his children (factor two), and (3) terminating his parental rights would not do more harm than good (factor four). We disagree and affirm.
The Division has a longstanding history with Kenneth's family, evidenced by twelve referrals, four of which were substantiated. Throughout the Division's involvement, Kenneth conceded that his relationship with his then wife Sharon -- Sophia's and Albert's mother -- was in turmoil, largely because of numerous incidents of domestic violence. The first documented incident occurred in April 2005, in which Kenneth admitted to assaulting Sharon by "[s]lap[ing] her [face] with [his] open hand" while she was nine months pregnant with Albert. Another assault, approximately three months later in July 2005, came in the midst of a typical argument with Sharon. Kenneth described his conduct as follows: "I got mad . . . I was wrong. I struck her and I had to do the time for it." Kenneth served approximately one month in the Middlesex County Jail as a result of that incident. Shortly after being released, Kenneth and Sharon reunited and continued to have turbulent arguments in the presence of their children.
In November 2005, while Kenneth was incarcerated in Florida, the Division substantiated a referral that Sharon had left Albert home without supervision. The children were removed from Sharon's care. Shortly thereafter, Kenneth and Sharon reunited while the children remained with a foster family, only for Kenneth to continue his assaultive conduct towards Sharon.
In August 2006, Sharon was granted a final restraining order (FRO) against Kenneth. After the children were returned to Sharon's care in June 2007, the FRO was amended to include Sophia and Albert within the FRO's protection.
In December 2007, Kenneth was convicted of aggravated assault (two counts), criminal restraint, and endangering the welfare of a child (non-Megan's Law).*fn2 He was sentenced to an aggregate term of seven years incarceration subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
In February 2008, Sophia and Albert were once again removed from Sharon's care because of ongoing domestic violence and substance abuse in the home. A few months later, Sharon and Kenneth were divorced. On April 28, 2009, the Division ...