Supreme Court Rules No Automatic Abuse from Drug Use During Pregnancy

The New Jersey Supreme Court has put its foot down against DYFS automatically ripping custody of a newborn child from its mother due to evidence the mother used drugs during pregnancy. Without expert evidence that the child has been harmed or is in imminent danger or at substantial risk of harm, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), n/k/a the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) cannot enter a finding of abuse and neglect under Title 9, the unanimous court held Wednesday in DYFS v. A.L., A-28-11.

The relevant section, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b), cannot be used to protect a fetus since, the court held, the Legislature drafted Title 9 to protect children only after birth.

On September 10, 2012, we spoke about this very issue and what we knew would be this precedential ruling. See previous post on this site. Hopefully, armed with this wonderful decision for parental defense advocates, the division will make appropriate “reasonable efforts” required by law to prevent removal, rather than take infants from their mothers at the hospital solely because of her addiction.

If you or someone you know suffers from a drug or alcohol problem and fear the loss of your baby or excessive intrusion by the Division, contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your matter.