Top court blasts DYFS in custody case

The agency is criticized for placing two children without a hearing

The state Supreme Court yesterday criticized the state Division of Youth and Family Services for ending an investigation of a woman who had “abused and neglected” her two children, saying a full hearing process is needed before determining where children should live.

In a unanimous decision, the justices said DYFS and the trial judge should have decided in court where the children could live, free from harm, instead of awarding custody to the woman’s ex-husband.

“Rather than relying on the wishes of the children, the division should have focused on whether the children could be safely returned to the custody of the mother,” Justice John Wallace Jr. wrote.

Public defender Yvonne Smith Segars said the precedent-setting decision establishes rules all Family Court judges must now follow.

“When a child is removed by DYFS … the parents will be given a full and fair opportunity to demonstrate to a Family Court judge … that the health, safety and other concerns which led to the removal of the children have been addressed, and that the children can now return,” said Segars.

Lee Moore, a spokesman with the Attorney General’s Office, said the state also supports that ruling.

“We agree with the Supreme Court decision accepting our argument that child protective services litigation may not conclude without the conduct of a full blown custody hearing in which DYFS, the public defender, representing the abusive parent, and the law guardian will participate,” said Moore.

The case involves a custody battle between a Hunterdon County woman and her former husband, who now lives in Florida, over their two children. All of the individuals’ names are protected by the court and none were released.

One night in March 2006, the daughter texted her father, saying she was having an argument with her mother. From Florida, the ex-husband called New Jersey State Police, who came to the woman’s home and allegedly found her drunk. The daughter had scratches on her arm and had become sick after her mother grabbed her and choked her….

June 25th, 2010
Topic: Uncategorized Tags: None

≡ Leave a Reply