NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff-Respondent,
C.B., Defendant-Appellant, and M.C., Defendant-Respondent. IN THE MATTER OF B.B. and R.C. Jr., Minors
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued November 4, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FN-18-130-09.
Angelo G. Garubo, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for appellant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Mr. Garubo, on the brief).
Michael S. Harwin, Designated Counsel, argued the cause for respondent M.C. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Mr. Harwin, on the brief).
Elizabeth S. Sherwood, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney; Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ms. Sherwood, on the brief).
Melissa R. Vance, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for minor B.B. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Phyllis G. Warren, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).
Before Judges Parrillo and Guadagno.
Defendant C.B. appeals from the January 17, 2012 order of the Family Part terminating the protective services litigation and returning his daughter B.B. to her mother M.C. Defendant also appeals from an earlier order of December 2, 2011 denying his motion to enforce litigant's rights as to his visitation with B.B., and an October 20, 2011 order denying his motion for reconsideration of orders dated April 15 and August 23, 2011. We affirm.
By way of background, B.B. was born in July 2000 to M.C., who was then married to defendant, the child's biological father. The couple divorced on July 8, 2002, and an order was entered in the matrimonial (FM) matter barring defendant from visitation with his daughter until further order of the court, and granting M.C. sole legal and physical custody of B.B.
Following his divorce from M.C., defendant engaged in a lengthy period of multi-substance abuse. He relocated to Georgia, where he was incarcerated in state prison for four years as a result of drug convictions. Following his release from incarceration, defendant remained on parole through late 2008, about the same time the Division of Youth & Family Services (Division) applied for and was granted care, custody and supervision of B.B., who was then eight years old, and who had not communicated with defendant since she was eleven months old.
At the time the Division filed its initial complaint, B.B. and her half-brother R.C. Jr. were living in New Jersey in the home of their maternal grandparents with their mother M.C. and stepfather R.C., who was R.C. Jr.'s father. Prior to 2008, the family resided in Florida, where M.C. and R.C. were investigated numerous times by the Florida Child Welfare Agency, the Division of Children and Families (the Florida Division). The Florida Division substantiated three of the referrals the agency received regarding the couple. On September 3, 2008, M.C. and R.C. signed a safety plan in Florida, and the agency planned to place services in the family's home. However, on that same evening, M.C. and R.C. packed up their home and drove their children and belongings to New Jersey to stay with the children's maternal grandparents, without notifying the Florida Division.
On September 10, 2008, the Florida Division contacted the Division in New Jersey. After receiving the referral, the Division investigated the couple and determined it was necessary to remove the children and place them with their maternal grandparents. Accordingly, the Division effected an emergency removal of B.B. and R.C. Jr. pursuant to the Dodd Act, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 to —8.82.
As noted, on September 12, 2008, the Division filed a verified complaint seeking custody of B.B. and her half-brother, R.C. Jr., and charging M.C. and R.C. with abuse and/or neglect of the children. The Division's initial complaint was premised on couple's long history of substance abuse and domestic violence. Defendant was named in the complaint solely as a dispositional party because he is the biological father of B.B. No allegations of abuse or neglect were made against him.
On the same date as the Division's complaint, the Family Part judge placed the children in resource care with their maternal grandparents, finding their removal was necessary due to the risk of imminent harm posed by M.C. and R.C. Defendant was first notified of the Division's action by a letter from the agency dated December 15, 2008, seeking his assistance in formulating a permanent plan for B.B.
By the next hearing, which was a fact-finding hearing conducted on March 30, 2009, defendant had been released from incarceration and participated in the proceeding by telephone, albeit without counsel. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that R.C. had abused and neglected the children, in that he admitted to marijuana use in August and September of 2008. No similar finding against M.C. was requested by the ...