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New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. M.N.R.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

May 15, 2013

M.N.R., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF L.A.R., a minor.


Submitted April 24, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FG-07-119-12.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Joseph F. Kunicki, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Vonnetta Fermin, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor L.A.R. (Cory Hadley Cassar, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).

Before Judges Grall and Koblitz.


M.N.R. appeals from the May 23, 2012 order terminating her parental rights to her son, L.A.R. (Leroy[2]), who was born in September 2010. M.N.R. argues that the trial judge erred in considering evidence from a prior guardianship trial and other evidence concerning M.N.R.'s older children. She also argues that the judge did not consider all of the evidence submitted in this trial. The law guardian supported termination in the trial court and, on appeal, joins the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) in urging us to affirm. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

M.N.R. either did not know or refused to divulge the identity of Leroy's father. Leroy is M.N.R.'s fourth child. At the time of Leroy's birth, her older children were not in her care. When M.N.R. was a child, she was in the Division's legal custody living with her maternal grandmother, when she had her first child at the age of sixteen. Due to M.N.R.'s emotional problems, this child was placed and remains in the care and legal custody of M.N.R.'s grandmother. M.N.R. had her second child at the age of eighteen. M.N.R.'s maternal aunt[3] was ultimately granted Kinship Legal Guardianship of this child. M.N.R.'s third child was born in 2002 when she was nineteen. After lengthy litigation including a seven-day trial, M.N.R.'s parental rights to her third child were terminated on January 31, 2011. We affirmed that decision in a detailed opinion relating M.N.R.'s long-standing psychiatric problems, for which she has complied with treatment only sporadically, as well as the Division services offered to her, including individual and group therapy at various locations, GED classes, parent aide services, numerous evaluations and medication monitoring. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. M.N.R., No. A-3458-10 (App. Div. Apr. 9, 2012). As the records relating this prior history were admitted in this trial, we incorporate here the facts set forth in our prior opinion. Id . at (slip op. 3-16).

When Leroy was born, he was placed in the care and custody of the Division shortly after birth. The Division placed Leroy with his current resource parent. The Division provided M.N.R. visitation with Leroy three times a week, and offered mental health treatment and evaluations. Due to her mental health problems, she was determined to be "too emotionally unstable, too irritable, too aggressive, and particularly too cognitively impaired in the areas of response inhibition, impulse control, problem solving and judgment to be an effective, fit parent[.]" A bonding evaluation unsurprisingly found that Leroy was not bonded to M.N.R. He was profoundly attached to his resource parent, who wishes to adopt him.

The standard of review in parental termination cases has been established by the New Jersey Supreme Court:

Our task as an appellate court is to determine whether the decision of the family court in terminating parental rights is supported by substantial and credible evidence on the record. We accord deference to factfindings of the family court because it has the superior ability to gauge the credibility of the witnesses who testify before it and because it possesses special expertise in matters related to the family. . . . We will not overturn a family court's factfindings unless they are so wide of the mark that our intervention is necessary to correct an injustice. It is not our place to second-guess or substitute our judgment for that of the family court, provided that the record contains substantial and credible evidence to support the decision to terminate parental rights.
[N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. F.M., 211 N.J. 420, 448-49 (2012) (citations and internal ...

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