In New York, a family court proceeding, pursuant to Article 8, allows a petitioner, the opportunity to civilly address an action that would otherwise be a crime. A family court proceeding under Article 8 is entirely different from a criminal prosecution for the same types of allegations, or even the exact same incident. However, in a criminal prosecution, the case is brought by the District.
Luis J., and the petitioner’s daughter were each 13 years old when the petition was filed. They had been in an on-and-off dating relationship for several years. The two were classmates in kindergarten and had an intermittent boyfriend-girlfriend relationship from fifth to eighth grade. Initially, the relationship involved handholding, kissing, texting, and phone calls. The daughter testified that by sixth grade, Luis J. was texting or calling several times a day and has become jealous, controlling, and isolating.
The two had some sexual contact, including an incident in which Luis J. allegedly made the daughter touch his erect penis in front of other students at school, and another in which he put his hand down her shirt and touched her breasts without permission. They stopped dating for most of seventh grade but began talking again late that year and met twice in eighth grade at Luis J.’s request.
The daughter testified that she reluctantly performed oral sex during the first encounter, thinking Luis would leave her alone if she did. During the second encounter, they had intercourse, and the daughter testified that Luis J. initially stopped at her request, but then continued. The daughter stopped seeing Luis J. after that, and when she began having suicidal thoughts, she told her mother about the incidents.
Luis . did not dispute those facts but argued Emily K. did not have standing to bring a family offense proceeding on her daughter’s behalf and that the relevant statute did not apply to him because of his age. The family court found that the intermittent dating relationship qualified as an intimate relationship within the meaning of Family Ct. Act § 812(1)(e). It further found that Luis J. had committed the offenses of sexual misconduct and forcible touching and granted a two-year protection order. Luis J. appealed.
In his appeal, Luis J. argued that Family Court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the matter as his relationship with the daughter did not fall within the parameters of Family Ct. Act § 812(1). The Appellate Division disagreed.
New York Family Court Act § 812(1) (the act) gives the Family Court jurisdiction to hear proceedings arising out of offenses committed against a member “of the same family or household.” While originally that meant people related by blood, marriage, or having a child together, in 2008, the legislature expanded the definition to include anyone in an intimate relationship, regardless of whether they were related or lived together. Furthermore, the act explicitly extends to minors who are not old enough for criminal conviction and does not suggest minors cannot be involved in qualifying intimate relationships.
In addition, contrary to Luis J.’s assertion, Emily K. has standing to bring the lawsuit. It is well established that parents have standing to bring Family Court offenses on behalf of a child. However, what Luis argues is essentially that the relationship did not qualify as an intimate relationship under the act because of his age.
The facts described by the daughter and no disputed by Luis J. supports Family Court’s determination that the intermittent dating relationship between respondent and the daughter qualified as an intimate relationship within the expanded reach of the revised statute. Accordingly, Family Court had subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the proceeding and found that Luis J. committed forcible touching and sexual misconduct against Emily’s daughter.