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New Jersey Division of Youth and v. P.M.J

May 7, 2012

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
P.M.J., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND M.R.A., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
IN THE MATTER OF: S.A.A., A MINOR



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FN-04-286-11.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 25, 2012 -

Before Judges J. N. Harris and Koblitz.

This is an appeal from the termination of a Title Nine*fn1 protective services proceeding. Defendant Pamela J.*fn2 appeals the April 29, 2011 order of the Family Part (1) ordering that her five-year-old son Stanley "shall remain in the legal and physical custody of [his father defendant Martin A.] under docket FD-04-2215-08-M" and (2) terminating the litigation.*fn3

Pamela's primary grievance is that the Family Part denied her due process by failing to conduct a proper dispositional hearing required by New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Servs. v. G.M., 198 N.J. 382, 398-400 (2009). We disagree and affirm.

I.

Pamela and Martin are Stanley's parents.*fn4 On April 14, 2010, pursuant to a consent order entered in a separate custody action (FD-04-3315-08), a different judge of the Family Part declared that Pamela and Martin were vested with joint legal custody of Stanley, with Pamela designated as the parent of primary residence.*fn5 The order provided a detailed schedule for Martin's parenting time, including forty-eight hours each weekend.

Eight months later, on November 13, 2010, Pamela was hospitalized from the effects of ingesting illegal drugs. On that date, a Saturday, Stanley was with his father pursuant to the agreed-upon parenting time schedule. Because of Pamela's conduct and her subsequent hospitalization, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) received a referral regarding her circumstances. Further investigation revealed that Pamela's children would not be safe in her exclusive care unless supervised by another appropriate adult.

In subsequent conversations with Martin, a Division worker was advised that because of Pamela's "relapse of drug use," Martin would seek emergency relief from the Family Part for custody of Stanley. Stanley was not returned to Pamela's unsupervised physical custody.

On November 29, 2010, the Division filed this Title Nine action seeking custody of Pamela's other child, and care and supervision of Stanley. The first in-court proceeding occurred on December 1, 2010, after which the Family Part issued an order containing, in pertinent part, the following handwritten notation:

-- [Pamela] may only have supervised contact with the children. -- She must not be under the influence during her parenting time. -- [Martin] has custody of [Stanley].

The proceeding's transcript reveals the court's unrebutted statement, "[Pamela] was tested today and she was positive for cocaine and for PCP." Furthermore, Pamela answered "[y]es" when the court asked her, "[d]o you consent to giving the Division care and supervision . . . and for [Stanley] to remain with [Martin]?"

A discussion between the court and counsel followed regarding the effect of the separate custody action and Martin's motion for custody. Because the details of the consent order were not fully reviewed at that time, and no one could say with certainty what was the status of the separate custody action, the court granted care and supervision to the Division, with a promise to revisit the Division's involvement at a later date:

THE COURT: I don't have a complete file on this so, I'm willing to address this matter at our next hearing. ...


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