DYFS – What Level of Behavior Constitutes Abuse and Neglect
- January 7, 2014
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New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. C.W., is a recent New Jersey Appellate Division case that focusing on what behavior constitutes abuse and neglect in a DYFS case. In C.W., the Defendant, Cynthia, appealed from a lower court’s order finding that she had neglected her son based upon her cocaine use and also based upon the fact that she physically attacked her husband – an attack that could have caused his death and exposed her son to “unspecified harm.” Cynthia and her husband are the biological parents of a son, who was born in November of 2008. In April of 2010, DYFS was called to investigate an incident regarding this family when Cynthia allegedly stabbed her husband and struck him with a frying pan. Subsequently, Cynthia was arrested for the incident and charged with aggravated assault and other weapons offenses. Cynthia’s husband declined to press charges against her, but informed the caseworker that he believed that Cynthia was abusing drugs and was in need of counseling. DYFS proposed a plan wherein Cynthia was not allowed to return to her home until she began to engage recommended therapeutic services and Cynthia signed the plan. The caseworker further concluded that Cynthia’s violent behavior exposed her son to a substantial risk of harm, which warranted a finding of neglect against her. On June 28, 2010, DYFS filed a complaint under Tile Nine, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21, seeking care and custody of Cynthia’s son. The boy was placed with a family friend. On December 6, 2011 a judge issued an order returning Cynthia’s son to the care of his parents on the condition that they comply with the services recommended by DYFS. On June 21, 2011, the judge placed an opinion on the record finding that Cynthia had neglected her son based on her drug use and the violent attack against her husband. Cynthia appealed from this judgment arguing that the trial judge erred in finding that her behavior exposed her son to a substantial risk of harm because the judge relied on documentary evidence without requiring the testimony of the DYFS witnesses. The New Jersey Appellate Division found no abuse of the judge’s discretion in her determination that Cynthia’s drug use constituted neglect of her son. However, the Appellate Court found insufficient evidence in the record for a finding of neglect based solely on Cynthia’s attack against her husband. The Court noted that the record did not contain any testimony, by an expert or anyone else, that Cynthia’s son was directly or indirectly negatively affected by the attack. If DYFS has become involved with your family or you expect that DYFS will become involved with your family it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about DYFS, custody, child support, visitation or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.