NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
B.J.K., Sr., Defendant-Appellant IN THE MATTER OF GUARDIANSHIP OF C.M.K., B.J.K., Jr. AND J.A.K., Minors
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 17, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-151-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Leviston N. Brisolla, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Nora Pearce, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors C.M.K., B.J.K., Jr., and J.A.K. (David Valentin, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).
Before Judges Reisner and Ostrer.
Defendant B.J.K., Sr., appeals from an October 4, 2012 order, terminating his parental rights to three of his children, C.M.K., B.J.K., Jr. and J.A.K. We affirm, substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Edward J. McBride, Jr., in his comprehensive written opinion issued on October 4, 2012.
The facts are set forth at length in Judge McBride's opinion and need not be repeated here in the same level of detail. To summarize, defendant and his girlfriend Sandra had three children, Calvin, born in 2003, Ben, born in 2004, and John, born in 2005. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Division) repeatedly provided Sandra with services to help her overcome her drug addiction and regain custody of her children. However, those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and Sandra made an identified surrender of her parental rights to R.D. and C.D., the paternal cousins who were acting as the children's foster parents. Meanwhile, defendant was absent from his children's lives for several years.
Sandra's identified surrender took place on March 16, 2012, six months before the guardianship trial commenced. At that hearing, Sandra testified under oath that she believed defendant was living in Florida, she had sent him a message on Facebook telling him about the guardianship proceedings, but he had not responded. The Division advised the judge that it had not yet served him with the guardianship complaint. Over the next several months, the Division was finally able to locate defendant in a Florida prison, and to serve him with the guardianship complaint and a 5A form. By June 12, 2012, defendant had assigned counsel, who advised the court that defendant was not scheduled to be released until February 2013. Without objection, the court scheduled the guardianship trial for September 4, 2012, and arranged for defendant to participate in the trial by speakerphone from the Florida prison.
At the time of the guardianship trial, the children had been continuously living with the foster parents since January 2011. The foster parents wanted to adopt them, and the children had expressed their wish to be adopted by the foster family.
The Division caseworker testified that the children had not seen defendant in two years. In his trial testimony, defendant admitted that he had not visited with any of the children since October or November 2010, when he moved to Florida. He testified that he got arrested a month or two after he moved to Florida, but was able to post bail after a few days. However, he did not contact his children, either before he was arrested or at any time after his release. He testified that he was re-incarcerated in September 2011, and had been in prison ever since. He testified that he tried to contact his children ...