The state Supreme Court has issued a ruling preventing the invocation of Title 9 in custody cases where no abuse or neglect is present. Title 9 is New Jersey’s child abuse statute, and can be used to ensure the safety of children in custody battles, but only when the child faces a threat from one or both of his or her parents or guardians. New Jersey family lawyers say that this ruling will lead to the exposure of Title 30 in custody cases. Title 30 offers different standards and procedures to determine whether or not a child needs to be removed from his or her home. The statute outlines the steps necessary to prove that the child’s safety is in jeopardy.
In 2007, a mother from Camden County, identified in court documents as I.S., turned to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), known then as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), for a temporary home for her young children, N.S. and S.S. DFYS removed the woman’s two daughters, 12-year-old twins who suffered from sever psychological problems. I.S. and the girls’ father, E.S., are divorced.
When DFYS found that the mother could not afford to pay for residential treatment, social workers filed complaints against her, seeking custody of the children and citing Title 9 and Title 30 in their request. Titles 9 and 30 are commonly used by social services when attempting to remove children from a potentially dangerous or harmful home situation. Although a judge found no evidence of abuse, the children were placed in a residential facility under both Titles, and Title 9 was never dismissed.
Three years later, N.S. was allowed to return to her mother, and her sister went to live with their father, who had asked the courts for custody of S.S. Her mother appealed to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the trial judge and the Appellate Division had issued erroneous rulings, in allowing the Title 9 complaint to stand even without evidence that the girls had been abused in her care.
Although the state Supreme Court upheld the original decision that N.S. live with her mother, and S.S. with her father, the judges did agree that the Title 9 complaint should have been dismissed years earlier, and that the state’s supervision should have been enforced under the standards set forth in Title 30. Title 9 states that, without sufficient evidence to sustain the claim of abuse, the court should abandon the complaint, and move to Title 30 for determination.
Title 30 allows DYFS and similar social service organizations to intervene if a parent is found to be unfit to care for his or her child. The family situation must be reviewed every six months, and once the parent in question can provide evidence of changed circumstances, the children can be returned, as long as the court finds that living with their parent is in their best interest.
The family attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, P.A. provide legal counsel and representation to any parent who is seeking the return of their children from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency or any other social service organization.