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New Jersey Mother Loses Parental Rights for Failing to Protect Children

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has declared that an otherwise-worthy mother can lose her parental rights for failing to protect her children from their abusive father.

In the case of New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. F.M., the high court affirmed a ruling by a Passaic County judge.

The mother, Fernanda, was 17 when she gave birth to Quinn in 2007. The boy's father, Troy, had an extensive criminal record. He also had a history of both drug addiction and mental illness.

Troy assaulted Fernanda when their son was about five months old. Although Fernanda refused to seek a domestic restraining order, Troy was charged with assault. Fernanda told the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) caseworker that Troy had assaulted her after taking Ecstasy and that his mental illness had worsened.

Soon afterward, Troy told Fernanda and a caseworker that he was God and that his kingdom was coming. The DYFS decided that Troy should not have access to his infant son. The agency warned Fernanda and her family that allowing Troy to return to Fernanda's home would cause Quinn to be removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Despite this warning, Fernanda allowed Troy to have access to the home, and he was found alone with his son during a surprise visit by the DYFS. The boy was removed from the home and placed in foster care. Less than two weeks later, Fernanda gave birth to Troy, Jr., and he was also removed from her custody.

The DYFS sought to terminate Fernanda's parental rights, on the grounds that she minimized Troy's drug and violence issues and was not in a position to parent their children because of her poor judgment with respect to Troy, even though she wasn't otherwise unfit as a parent.

The state Supreme Court held that the record supported the DYFS's decision to terminate Fernanda's parental rights.

If you have questions about parental rights or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact a New Jersey family law attorney at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC. 

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