On appeal from a Decision of the Division of Youth and Family Services, Department of Children and Families, Docket No. AHU-10-0418.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 3, 2012
Before Judges Ashrafi and Hayden.
Defendant-mother W.R. appeals from a December 27, 2011 final decision of the Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services ("the Division") finding that she abused or neglected her nine-year-old son when she engaged in acts of violence in his presence against her estranged husband. We affirm.
The following evidence was developed in a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
During the early months of 2010, defendant-mother and her husband were living separately. The couple shared custody of their three children, including the nine-year-old son. Typically, mother would pick the children up from school on weekdays. Father would then pick them up at mother's house in the evening, and they would spend weeknights with him.
On February 10, 2010, a Wednesday, mother sent a text message to father asking him to come and shovel snow from her driveway. During the text messages that followed, mother also proposed that she and father have sexual relations, to which he agreed. According to father, he informed mother that he would be bringing their son to help with the shoveling.
When father and son arrived, father could tell that mother had had "a drink or two" because he "could smell it on her." But he thought that she seemed "fine." She was "talking normal . . . no problems at all." The son was questioned after the domestic violence incident, and he also said that his mother "smelled like alcohol," but he had not seen her drinking and denied having ever smelled alcohol on her breath before.
After the shoveling, mother made lunch for the son, and he went to watch television in the living room. Mother and father went to her bedroom. After some time, the boy called out to them that he wanted to go home, and father and son left mother's house. They had driven only a few blocks when father received a text message and then a call from mother asking him to return. Mother was upset and crying and said she wanted to talk to father. He drove back, having been out of her house for only "five or ten minutes."
Upon his return, father immediately noticed that mother's demeanor and level of intoxication had changed. She now appeared "drunk." She was crying hysterically, her speech was slurred, and she "just didn't seem right." Father's observations were later corroborated by the police officer who answered the domestic violence call, Officer Caffrey. He described mother as "highly intoxicated" based on the "odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from her." A family friend, who was called to help and saw mother about the same time as the officer, told a Division caseworker that mother's eyes were bloodshot and that she smelled of alcohol as if "she was still drinking."
After father and son returned to mother's house, son resumed watching television in the living room while father and mother went to her bedroom to talk. Mother then became "extremely agitated" and began yelling at father about an affair he had had. The son heard the yelling, and he heard a door slam. Father testified that he said to mother, "I'm not going to get into a fight with you," and that he attempted to leave. Mother grabbed his jacket, ripping it. As father made his way to the kitchen, mother repeatedly punched him in the back of the head. ...