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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. S.L. and L.R

October 25, 2012

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
S.L. AND L.R., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND R.W., DEFENDANT.
IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF S.W. AND P.L., MINORS, APPELLANTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FG-13-70-10.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 19, 2012

Before Judges Fisher, Waugh and St. John.

At the conclusion of an eight-day trial, Judge Robert A. Coogan determined that clear and convincing evidence was lacking on the second, third and fourth prongs of the parental- termination statutory test, N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a), and entered judgment in favor of defendant S.L., the mother of the two children in question, and defendant L.R., the father of only one.*fn1 The Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division)*fn2 and the Law Guardian for the children have appealed. We calendared their appeals back to back and now, by way of a single opinion, affirm.

In its appeal, the Division argues:

I. BECAUSE THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION WAS INCONSISTENT WITH CASE LAW AND THE GREAT WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE, THIS COURT SHOULD DISREGARD THE FINDINGS MADE BELOW AND DETREMINE THAT [THE DIVISION] PROVED THAT THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILDREN MANDATES TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS.

A. THE TRIAL COURT'S FINDING AS TO THE SECOND PRONG INCORRECTLY IGNORED THE UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT OF THE EXPERTS, OVERLOOKED CRITICAL EVIDENCE, AND FAILED TO MAKE FINDINGS CONSISTENT WITH ALL THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED.

B. THE COURT DISREGARDED THE LAW AND THE VOLUMINOUS EVIDENCE PRESENTED IN FINDING THAT THE DIVISION DID NOT CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TO TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS.

C. THE TRIAL FAILED TO MAKE ANY FACTUAL FINDINGS OR CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AS REQUIRED BY K.H.O.[*fn3 ] IN DETERMINING THAT TERMI[N]ATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS WILL DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.

The Law Guardian argues:

I. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTIMONY WAS UNDISPUTED THAT [THE MOTHER] COULD NOT ELIMINATE THE RISK OF HARM TO THE CHILDREN; THIS, COUPLED WITH CONSIDERATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CHILDREN AND THEIR FOSTER FATHERS, SATISFIES THE SECOND PRONG OF N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.

II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW IN FINDING THAT ITS PREFERENCE OF ONE ADOPTIVE PLACEMENT AS OPPOSED TO ...


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