NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
T.A., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF M.A.S., A minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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-04-136-12.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Ruth Harrigan, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Michelle D. Perry-Thompson, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minor M.A.S. (Damen J. Thiel, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Before Judges Messano and Sabatino.
When the State seeks to terminate parental rights, the Division of Youth and Family Services (the Division) must prove by clear and convincing evidence each of the following:
(1) The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;
(2) The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family parents would cause serious and enduring emotional or psychological harm to the child;
(3) The [D]ivision has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home and the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights; and
(4)Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.
[N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a); see also In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337, 347-48 (1999).]
Following the trial in this case, now-retired Judge Octavia Melendez concluded that the Division had proven all four of the statutory standards and entered an order terminating the parental rights of defendant, T.A. (Theresa), with regard to her daughter, M.A.S. (Margaret). Margaret's father, M.S., was a defendant in the guardianship litigation, and his parental rights were also terminated. He has not filed an appeal.
Before us, Theresa does not challenge Judge Melendez's findings and conclusions as to prong one of the statutory test. However, she contends that the Division failed to prove prongs two, three and four by clear and convincing evidence. She also argues that Judge Melendez mistakenly ...