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New Jersey Division of Youth & Family Services v. J.M.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 4, 2013

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, [1] Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
J.M., Defendant, and B.A., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF J.M., J.M., E.M. and B.A., Jr., Minors.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 9, 2012

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FN-04-315-11.

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

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Sharon Piccioni, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors (David R. Giles, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Before Judges Parrillo, Sabatino and Maven.

PER CURIAM

Following a fact-finding hearing in this Title 9 litigation filed by the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) against defendant B.A. (Brian) and J.M. (Jenny), [2] the trial judge concluded that Brian had abused and neglected the couple's four children[3] by exposing them to domestic violence. The judge's July 22, 2011 order specifically determined that:

The children were present when a domestic violence incident occurred in 2007, and were aware of, heard, and were possibly present at domestic violence incidents since that date. [Brian] admittedly engaged in violent "love taps" in front of the children, which constituted inappropriate violence within the home as well. As a result of witnessing those incidents, [Joey] has experienced emotional harm, evidenced by his physically violent conduct toward his sister [Janine] and his comment, "You want me to do you like my dad did my mom?" The court therefore finds that [Brian's] conduct did constitute abuse and neglect under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c).

Brian appeals the abuse and neglect finding. He raises the following contentions:

I. THE "ABUSE OR NEGLECT" FINDING AGAINST [BRIAN] SHOULD BE REVERSED BECAUSE THE TRIAL COURT'S DETERMINATION THAT THE CHILDREN'S EMOTIONAL CONDITION HAS BEEN IMPAIRED AS A RESULT OF EXPOSURE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS COMPLETELY UNSUPPORTED IN THE RECORD AND HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE.
II. BECAUSE THE TRIAL COURT'S "ABUSE AND NEGLECT" FINDING AGAINST [BRIAN] IS NOT SUPPORTED BY A PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE, HIS NAME SHOULD BE EXPUNGED FROM THE CENTRAL REGISTRY OF CHILD ABUSERS.

We have considered the arguments raised in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.

I.

On December 12, 2010, the Division received a referral from a Cooper Hospital staff member who expressed concern for the minor children due to reported domestic violence occurring at Jenny's home. That day, Jenny was home with the one-year-old-child while the other three children were at Brian's home. When Brian arrived at Jenny's house to pick up the child and some clothing, he discovered that Jenny had a male and a female visitor in her home. The referent reported that Brian said, "Bitch[, ] what did I tell you about having company in the house[?]" then punched Jenny on her face and body, dragged her by her hair, and banged her face into the window. Jenny contacted police, and she was transported to Cooper Hospital for medical attention.

Later that day, a Division caseworker interviewed Jenny at her home and observed clumps of hair on the floor. Jenny acknowledged seeking a domestic violence restraining order against Brian in 2004, but she "dropped the charges." Jenny showed the caseworker the new temporary restraining order received as a result of her recent assault and informed the caseworker that she did not plan to drop the order "this time."[4]Brian was later arrested and charged with simple assault.[5]

On December 15, 2010, the Division filed a verified complaint and order to show cause seeking care, custody and supervision of the four minor children. The basis of the complaint was the domestic violence between Brian and Jenny, and Brian's arrest for simple assault against Jenny.

At the hearing on December 15, 2010, the Honorable Deborah Silverman Katz, J.S.C., ordered that the children be placed in the care and supervision of the Division and granted physical custody of the children to Jenny. The judge also ordered supervised visitation with Brian and the children, a domestic violence assessment for Jenny, and ...


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