Slapping a teenager or taking money from her paycheck to pay family bills is hardly admirable, but doesn't constitute child neglect or abuse, the state Supreme Court ruled today.
In a 7-0 decision, the court found the state Division of Youth and Family Services lacked sufficient evidence to remove a teenager from her father and stepmother's home in 2008, and dropped the abuse and neglect judgment against her stepmother.
"The parental decisions made within this family unit may not have been exemplars of stellar parenting, but they did not rise to the level of Title Nine violations," wrote Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, referring to New Jersey's child abuse laws.
The girl was removed from the home after her grandfather reported the parents for taking her earnings from her part-time job and "slapping her around." A DYFS worker also found the home was without heat and authorized an emergency removal.
The father told a DYFS representative that his wife had slapped his daughter once two years earlier, and that part of his daughter's earnings went to the cable bill. The couple said their central heating was broken, and they were using space heaters. The family members were not named the decision.