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Sunday, February 21, 2016

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY VS. K.F. AND R.G. AND

NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY
          VS. K.F. AND R.G. AND D.M.I/M/O A.M. AND N.G.
          A-0558-14T1
We reverse application of the burden-shifting paradigm found in In re D.T., 229 N.J. Super. 509 (App. Div. 1988), in an abuse and neglect case involving a twenty-five-day-old infant. The parents brought the child to the emergency room with a bruised lip and small bump on the side of the head which they claimed resulted from the baby falling off a bed. Throughout the investigation, neither parent wavered from the narrative that the mother took the infant into the bedroom and left him there sleeping. While in the living room, they heard the baby suddenly start to cry, the mother returned to the bedroom and found him on the floor. They immediately took the child for treatment. Since an infant that age cannot roll, that night medical personnel referred the matter to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
During the fact-finding hearing, the trial judge shifted the burden of persuasion to the father because the mother's explanation that she placed the child near the edge of the bed was unconvincing, and the father was in the home when the
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incident occurred. We conclude that merely finding one parent's explanation insufficient should not result in shifting the burden to the other.