The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that a mother who left her 4-year-old son at home while she went out to dinner does not need to be included in a child abuse registry.
The case involves an Atlantic Highlands woman, and the incident occurred in 2007. The woman entered her home and put her sleeping son in his bed, mistakenly assuming that her mother was upstairs. Unknown to the woman, her mother and her stepfather, who lived in the same house, had gone out for a sudden trip to New York without informing her. The woman went out to dinner with a friend. When the boy woke up and found himself alone at home, he walked over to a neighbor's house, and the neighbors alerted the police.
No charges were filed against the woman, but the case was referred to the Division of Youth and Family Services. The agency found that the woman had neglected her son. Under the law, the woman is required to register in the child abuse registry.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has now found that although the woman's conduct in failing to check that the mother was at home before leaving the child alone was negligent, it did not meet the definition of gross negligence or recklessness. The Supreme Court has overruled the agency's decision.
This is the second time in the past few months that the New Jersey Supreme Court has disagreed with a decision by the child protection agency. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that parents who took money from a teenager in order to pay household bills were not guilty of child abuse or neglect, overturning another decision by the DYFS.
The New Jersey family lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons involved in divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence and other family law-related matters across New Jersey.