Joseph C. Noto, a Bergen County divorce lawyer, thought you would be interested in the recent case regarding who can and can not be be a caregiver of a child in NJ. In “New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. J.S., App. Div. (Sabatino, J.A.D.) (32 pp.) Defendant, a biological father, appeals from the Family Part’s judgment terminating his parental rights as to his minor child following a multiday trial. Among other things, defendant argues that the trial court erred in upholding a decision of the Division of Youth and Family Services to “rule out” two cousins who had expressed interest in serving as alternative caregivers for the child. Affirming the final judgment, we reject defendant’s argument that the division lacks the authority to rule out relatives under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-12.1 based on considerations of a child’s best interests. Instead, we hold that the applicable statutory provisions and a related regulation, N.J.A.C. 10:120A-3.1, allow the division to rule out a relative on such best-interests grounds, regardless of the relative’s willingness or ability to care for a child. However, the division’s rule-out authority is always subject to the Family Part’s ultimate assessment of that child’s best interests. We also uphold the validity of the language in N.J.A.C. 10:120A-3.1(b) prohibiting a relative who the division rules out on best-interests grounds from pursuing an administrative appeal of that agency determination. However, we urge the division to act with reasonable diligence in notifying a potential caretaker that he or she has been ruled out, once the investigation of that person has been completed.” Joseph Noto says people should bear this case in mind: that the best interest of the child applies when determening a caregiver.
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