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Suspended Judgement Denial in DYFS Case Upheld


by in Criminal Appeals

DYFS v. R.M./In the Matter of I.L., C.L., and I.T., ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 19 (February 5, 2010) – “Defendant R.M. appeals the order of the Family Part denying her application for the entry of a ‘suspended judgment’ as the disposition of the complaint filed by plaintiff New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (Division) charging her with child neglect as defined by N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21.

This appeal requires us to determine (1) the criteria for application of the ‘suspended judgment’ provision of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.51(a)(1); and (2) whether successful completion of a period of suspended judgment necessarily leads to the removal of the underlying finding of abuse or neglect from the central registry maintained by the Division pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.11….

In summary, we conclude that the suspended judgment provision of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.51(a)(1) is generally applicable when a Family Part judge has held a dispositional hearing and is not prepared to enter an order returning the child to the parent or placing the child with the Division, but instead proposes to give the parent an opportunity to maintain the family unit based upon adherence to the particular remedial requirements established pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.52(a).

We also conclude that successful completion of a period of suspended judgment does not result in expungement of the underlying finding of abuse or neglect. [W]e find no basis to conclude that the Legislature intended the suspended judgment provision of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.51(a)(1) to provide the equivalent of PTI in abuse and neglect cases…. Finally, we affirm the order on appeal, based upon our conclusion that a suspended judgment was not a viable option at the time the order was entered and that, in any event, the Family Part judge did not abuse his discretion….” (Carol Willner, Designated Counsel,for R.M.; Amy Vasquez, Designated Counsel, Law Guardian)

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