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The Best Interest Standard in NJ Guardianship Trials

Middlesex County Guardianship Lawyers

DCP&P Defense Attorneys Near Me in New Brunswick, New Jersey

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During a Guardianship Trial, the Court will focus on the best interests of your child and use a four-part, or four-pronged, test to assess the child’s best interests. The best interest inquiry is very broad and all encompassing, but at the same time it is also fact-sensitive and very specific to each particular case. In addition to the statutory language that codifies the four prongs of best interest test, countless Appellate Division and Supreme Court cases analyze the meanings and practical applications of the best interests standard, creating a very complex and nuanced area of the law. If you are involved in Guardianship Litigation and DCP&P is seeking to terminate your parental rights, you should consider contacting an experienced DCP&P defense attorney who is well versed in the statutes and case law related to the best interests standard.

The DYFS defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm LLC are ready and able to assist you in dealing with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (known as “DCP&P”) in New Jersey. Protect your rights, your family, and your future: contact our experienced DCP&P defense lawyers today for immediate assistance at (908)-356-6900. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge. We represent clients throughout Middlesex County NJ including in Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Metuchen, Edison, Piscataway, and Sayreville.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard in NJ DYFS Cases

Guardianship litigation is ultimately guided by the “best interests of the child” standard. N.J. Dep’t of Children and Families v. A.L., 213 N.J. 1. (2013). That standard is codified by statute in Title 30 and is made up of the four-part test set forth in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1. N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. L.M., 430 N.J. Super. 428 (App. Div 2013). The first prong is that the child’s safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)(1). The second prong is that the parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)(2). The third prong is two-part and is that the Division has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child’s placement outside the home and that the Court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)(3). The fourth and final prong is a catchall category and is that termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good. N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)(4).

According to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the four prongs of the best interest test set forth in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1 are not separate and discrete but rather overlap with each other to provide a comprehensive standard that focuses on the child’s best interests. In re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337 (1999). In addition, the same Court held that, as with an inquiry into whether or not a parent has abused or neglected a child, the considerations involved in a termination of parental rights trial are extremely fact-sensitive and require particularized evidence that address the specific circumstances in the given case. The New Jersey Supreme Court has also held that the four prongs “overlap to provide a composite picture of what may be necessary to advance the best interests of the children.” N.J. Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. M.M. 189 N.J. 261 (2007). In fact, the first two prongs are “related to one another, and evidence that supports one informs and may support the other.” In re Guardianship of D.M.H., 161 N.J. 365 (1999).

Local Middlesex County DCP&P Defense Lawyers Available Now

The best interest of the child standard that the Court will utilize during a termination of parental rights trial can result in a very lengthy proceeding in which DCP&P and the Court will delve into your past, present and likely future to determine whether or not you are fit to parent your child. The Division’s evidence will potentially include thousands of pages of evidence and the witnesses will most likely include expert witnesses such as psychologists. If you are named as a defendant on a Guardianship Complaint filed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency you should contact a DCP&P defense attorney who has previously handled termination of parental rights trials and is familiar with all of the elements of the best interest standard. Our lawyers are available now at (908)-356-6900.

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