I have spent the last twenty years practicing law working first in NYand NJ, but now am limited to NJ. I appear in traffic court representing clients with traffic tickets like speeding or DUIs. I also represent clients facing disorderly person's charges like shoplifting and assault. Expungements also can be done.
If you have a family matter I am also ready to provide legal assistance.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
THE DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY AND THE ISSUE OF MENTAL ILLNESS
Appellate Division decision (unfortunately unpublished) deals with the issue as
to whether mental illness in the absence of harm or threatened harm to a child
can provide a basis for a finding of abuse and neglect under New Jersey Title
In New Jersey
Div. of Youth and Family Services v. L.F.,(A-0982-12), a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Court
reversed the Family Court’s finding that a mother with chronic mental illness
had committed abuse and neglect against her two children. The Division received
a notice from local police that the mother had been acting out of control and
ranting and raving. The mother was then taken to a local hospital where she was
referred for outpatient treatment.
The mother told
her caseworker that she was hearing voices.The mother was diagnosed with “bipolar disorder or possibly an agitated
depression with psychosis.” As the case
described, the mother had a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations.In 2012, the Family Court found that the
Division had proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the mother had
neglected her children due to her non-compliance with treatment and refusals to
take her medications.The appeal was
based upon the fact that the mother had never placed her children at risk of
Division ruled in favor of the mother, finding that the children were never
harmed or recklessly creating a harm or the
substantial risk of harm for her children under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b).
This implies more than that there is a speculative risk of harm, but that there
must be a showing that the parent has recklessly created a serious risk of harm
to the child. DYFS v. J.L., 410 N.J. Super. 159, 168-169 (App.Div.
Court found that C.F. had the benefit of living with the children’s father and
her parents who were aware of the mental illness of the mother and were able to
ensure the children’s safety. As a result, the Appellate Division ordered that
the mother’s name be removed from the Central Child Abuse Registry Index.
mentioned above, this is an unpublished decision, meaning that it is not
binding upon lower courts. However, it is indicative of recent New Jersey
Supreme and Appellate Division decisions that the Division has to prove cases
by a preponderance of the evidence showing that a harm or substantial risk of
harm has occurred. They must also show that the parent has showed something
beyond simple negligence. While a person with severe mental health issues might
present a risk of harm, if that person is treating and if there is a support
network to ensure the children’s safety, there is not sufficient cause, at
least according to this judicial panel, to find that an act of abuse has