Why You Have Only One Shot to Protect Child Custody Rights

Posted May 17th, 2012 by .

Categories: Family Law.

There is a presumption in New Jersey law, reflecting an overall social value, that in general children do best when allowed to have contact with their biological parents. In addition, parents are considered to have a constitutionally-protected right to some measure of custody and contact with their children.

In some cases, however, the New Jersey DYFS feels that a child will be best served by terminating a parent’s rights to custody of their children. To achieve termination of parental rights, DYFS must fulfill a 4-part standard, first elaborated by the New Jersey Supreme Court and later codified by the New Jersey Legislature. To terminate parental rights, DYFS must establish:

(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 division 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).]

This standard was affirmed again in early March with the appellate case NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES v. D.M. (No. A-4604-10T4).

Another important aspect of DYFS v. DM is the judge’s enumeration of the limitations of an appellate judge in reviewing a family court’s decision. Essentially, an appeals judge is supposed to defer to the family court’s decision unless it is “so manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice” (quoting Fagliarone v. Twp. of N. Bergen, 78 N.J.Super. 154, 155).

This means that although you technically have the right to appeal a decision by a family court, your appeal is likely to be very limited and difficult to win. That means you want to make sure you win your case against DYFS the first time.

The family lawyers at the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, PC, are prepared to fight for your parental rights. To learn how we can help, please contact us today for a consultation.

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