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In Etzel v. Freleng, 188 A.D.3d 1054 (N.Y. App. Div. 2020), the Appellate Division addressed issues pertaining to jurisdiction in custody disputes where the divorce decree establishing custody was issued in Vermont.

Jurisdiction in divorce and custody cases is paramount for ensuring the proper adjudication of legal matters surrounding the dissolution of marriage and the welfare of children. One fundamental aspect of jurisdiction involves residency requirements, which mandate that parties must reside within a particular jurisdiction for a specified period before initiating legal proceedings. These requirements serve to establish a connection between the parties and the jurisdiction in which they seek relief, ensuring that the court has a legitimate basis for asserting authority over the case. Importantly, once a court in one state issues a custody order, that decision generally cannot be modified by another state. This principle upholds the finality of court decisions and prevents jurisdictional conflicts that could harm the child’s well-being.

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In Leathers v. Smalls 192 A.D.3d 892 (N.Y. App. Div. 2021), a case heard by the Family Court of Westchester County, the father appealed from two court orders related to child support obligations. The case involved a dispute over the father’s compliance with a child support order and the subsequent consequences imposed by the court.

In New York, child support is determined based on a standardized formula outlined in the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA). This formula considers several factors, including each parent’s income, the number of children requiring support, and certain expenses such as daycare and medical insurance premiums. The CSSA provides a guideline percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income to be allocated for child support, with adjustments made for various circumstances such as shared custody or extraordinary expenses. Courts typically use this formula to calculate child support obligations, ensuring consistency and fairness in support determinations across cases. However, courts may deviate from the guideline amount under certain circumstances, such as when the application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate.

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In re Baby O. 181 A.D.3d 606 (N.Y. App. Div. 2020) involves a contested private placement adoption case adjudicated by the Family Court of Suffolk County, focusing on the biological father’s appeal against two court orders. The first order, dated October 25, 2018, determined that the father’s consent wasn’t needed for adoption. The second, on January 30, 2019, affirmed that the adoption served the child’s best interests.

Background Facts

In a contested private placement adoption case, the biological father appealed from two orders of the Family Court, Suffolk County, dated October 25, 2018, and January 30, 2019. The first order determined that his consent was unnecessary for the adoption, while the second found the adoption to be in the child’s best interests. The child in question was born out of wedlock in May 2017 in Pennsylvania. The biological father, incarcerated shortly after learning of the pregnancy, remained in prison throughout the pregnancy. The adoptive parents were present at the child’s birth and took custody of the newborn the next day. They subsequently filed for adoption in the Family Court, Suffolk County, after receiving approval from the Pennsylvania Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children office. Following hearings, the court ruled that the biological father’s consent was unnecessary for adoption and that it was in the child’s best interests to be adopted by the petitioners. The biological father contested these decisions.

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A determination of neglect signifies a legal finding that a parent or caretaker has failed to provide adequate care, supervision, or guardianship for a child. It means that the court has concluded, based on the evidence presented, that the child’s physical, mental, or emotional well-being has been impaired or is at risk of impairment due to the parent or caretaker’s actions or omissions. This determination is typically made after a thorough assessment of the circumstances surrounding the child’s care and any evidence of harm or potential harm to the child.

This case revolves around a father’s appeal from an order of disposition issued by the Family Court, Queens County, dated September 4, 2019. The order, made after a fact-finding and dispositional hearing, found that the father neglected the subject child and released the child to the custody of the nonrespondent mother. The father contests this decision, prompting an appeal.

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Jurisdiction over a custody decision is typically determined based on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) guidelines, which prioritize the child’s “home state” as the primary jurisdiction for custody matters. The “home state” is defined as the state where the child has resided with a parent or guardian for a continuous period of at least six months prior to the custody proceeding’s initiation. If the child has no “home state” or if there is a dispute regarding jurisdiction, other factors such as significant connections with the state and substantial evidence relating to the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships are considered.

Additionally, courts may decline jurisdiction if it is determined to be an inconvenient forum and another state is deemed more appropriate based on factors such as the child’s connections to each state, the location of evidence and witnesses, and the parties’ ability to present their case effectively. Ultimately, the overarching goal is to ensure that custody decisions are made in the jurisdiction that can best serve the child’s interests and welfare.

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In July 2021, the Family Court of Onondaga County awarded the petitioner, the father, sole legal and primary physical custody of the children involved. Additionally, it provided the mother with supervised visitation rights, stipulating that the specifics of these visitations be mutually agreed upon by both parents. This decision was subsequently appealed by the mother, who contested several aspects of the ruling.

The mother’s appeal focused on issues relate to the process of service of the notice of appeal, the admission of certain evidence, and the terms of her visitation rights. Particularly contentious were the admission of text message screenshots between the mother and the children, and a recorded conversation, which she argued contained inadmissible hearsay. Moreover, the mother challenged the representation by the attorney for the children (AFC), claiming an improper substitution of judgment regarding the children’s wishes, which she believed conflicted with their best interests

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In Young v. Young, 186 A.D.3d 719 (N.Y. App. Div. 2020, the Appellate Division consider a case where a husband challenges having to pay his spouse support.

In New York, the Family Court determines spousal support during divorce proceedings by carefully considering various factors related to the financial circumstances of both parties. The court follows a discretionary standard outlined in the relevant statute, typically Family Court Act § 412. This statute mandates that a married person is responsible for supporting their spouse, and the court has the authority to determine a fair and reasonable amount based on the respective circumstances of each party.

Key factors considered by the court include the duration of the marriage, the financial means of both spouses, and each party’s need to maintain a suitable standard of living post-divorce. The court assesses the payor spouse’s ability to provide support while still meeting their own financial obligations. Similarly, it evaluates the payee spouse’s need for financial assistance and their capacity to become self-supporting in the future.

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In Daniel FF. v. Alicia GG., 207 A.D.3d 853 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022), a case before the Family Court of Ulster County, a petitioner sought to challenge an acknowledgment of paternity issued shortly after the birth of a child. The court’s decision centered on the doctrine of equitable estoppel.

In New York, an acknowledgment of paternity is a legal document signed by both the mother and the father of a child, voluntarily acknowledging that the man is the biological father of the child. This acknowledgment establishes legal paternity, confirming the father’s rights and responsibilities regarding the child. It is typically signed at the time of the child’s birth or soon after and is often completed at the hospital where the child is born.

Once the acknowledgment of paternity is signed and properly executed, it has the same legal effect as a court order establishing paternity. This means that the father becomes legally recognized as the child’s parent, with all associated rights and obligations, including the right to seek custody or visitation and the responsibility to provide financial support for the child.

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Interference with visitation rights in New York is a serious matter that can occur in various family dynamics, not limited to disputes between parents. While it often arises in the context of parental visitation arrangements, where one parent obstructs the other’s court-ordered visitation with their child, it can also extend to situations involving other family members or guardians who have been granted visitation rights by the court.

In cases of parental interference, one parent may intentionally obstruct or prevent the other parent from spending court-ordered time with their child. This interference can take various forms, including refusing to comply with the visitation schedule, making it difficult for the other parent to communicate with the child, or even hiding the child to avoid visitation altogether. Such actions can have detrimental effects on the parent-child relationship and the well-being of the child.

However, interference with visitation rights is not exclusive to parents. In instances where grandparents, stepparents, or other relatives have been granted court-ordered visitation rights, interference may occur when one party attempts to impede or undermine those visitation arrangements. This interference could involve denying access to the child during scheduled visitation times, manipulating the child’s feelings towards the visiting relative, or otherwise obstructing the court-ordered visitation process.

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Allison v. Seeley-Sick, 199 A.D.3d 1490 (N.Y. App. Div. 2021) is an appeal from a an order issues in a Family Court Act article 6 proceeding. A Family Court Act Article 6 proceeding refers to cases handled under Article 6 of the New York Family Court Act, which covers matters related to the custody, guardianship, and visitation of children.

These proceedings determine who will be legally responsible for a child’s care, who will make major decisions about the child’s life, and how visitation with a non-custodial parent will be handled. Article 6 provides the legal framework for addressing these issues, focusing on the best interests of the child as the primary consideration in any decision made by the court. This includes evaluating factors such as the stability of each parent, their ability to care for the child, the child’s wishes (depending on their age and maturity), and any history of abuse or neglect. These proceedings are necessary for establishing a legal arrangement that supports the child’s welfare and the rights of both parents.

In Allison v. Seeley-Sick, the order, dated August 2019, encompassed various modifications sought by the petitioner father, ultimately granting him sole custody of the children with supervised visitation for the mother. The ensuing legal debate revolved around the mother’s challenge to this decision, alleging, among other things, an abuse of discretion and failure to establish a change in circumstances justifying the modification.

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