Articles Posted in Guardianship Law

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NY Slip Op 2017 00651

February 1, 2017

This is a guardianship proceeding held pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law Article 81. In this case, Dimitrios Spanos a successor guardian for Yolanda TM sought to settle his account. He is appealing from and Order of the Supreme Court entered on 12/12/13 in Queens County. This ruling awarded him commissions for his guardianship (SCPA 2307(1) in the amount of $14, 496 and attorney’s fees in the amount of $1,823.

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May 4, 2016

Judge Spina commented that in the Guardianship of V.V. 470 Mass 590 (2015) the court ruled that a parent who has a minor child subject to a guardianship proceeding pursuant to G.L. c. 190B. Sec. 5-206 and can’t afford a lawyer does indeed have a right to counsel. The issue here is if a parent has a right to counsel when a parent files a petition to have a guardian removed, or the terms are modified. He court finds that a parent has a right to counsel when they file a petition to have a guardian removed, or the terms modified. The court finds that a parent has a right to counsel for those types of proceedings. The court also offers guidance to the probate and family court, when these guardianship issues occur and to create standards regarding right to counsel.

The plaintiffs are mothers of children where guardians have been appointed pursuant to G.L. c. 190B, Sec. 5-206. They brought this action in County Court, contesting a policy put in place by the Chief Justice of Probate and Family Court regarding the appointment of counsel in guardianship proceedings (G.L. 190B). They challenged a memorandum that was released to the court personnel regarding this issue.

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Jeffery Kaplan, Esq. of Levine & Kaplan for Petitioner

Ari Gourvitz, Esq. of Gourvitz and Grourvitz for Respondent

The parents jointly sought child custody to the Petitioner mother, and voluntary termination and surrender of the father’s parental rights. At the time of the hearing the child was one year old.

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On or about October 8, 2004, petitioner commenced a proceeding pursuant to Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law for the appointment of a Guardian for his father, respondent an Alleged Incapacitated Person. The Petition alleged that as the result of a stroke occurring during a routine cardiac catherization, respondent (age 51) was currently residing in PENINSULA HOSPITAL CENTER (Head Trauma Unit), Far Rockaway, New York, in a “minimally responsive condition” and that he required assistance with all activities of daily living. Following a hearing conducted herein, the Court appointed the Petitioner, and his mother as the Co-Guardians for the Personal Needs and Property Management of respondent, an Incapacitated Person, by Order and Judgment dated February 7, 2005.

During the ensuing years, respondent was transferred to PARK TERRACE REHABILITATION AND NURSING CENTER, Corona, New York for further rehabilitation, and ultimately discharged to his residence in Great Neck, New York. At home, the Co-Guardians utilized the assistance of MAXIM HEALTH CARE SERVICES, INC. to provide full-time home health care for him.

A Nassau Visitation Lawyer said that, by Decision and Order dated September 26, 2005, the Court denied an application to transfer to the mother certain property belonging to the Incapacitated Person with leave to renew upon notice to the NASSAU COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, a necessary and interested party to such application. As the Court stated in such Decision and Order, “where the co-guardians seek to transfer investment property and an interest in a business to the community spouse, as well as income, in anticipation of the incapacitated person applying for Medicaid benefits, the local department social services is a necessary party and they should be heard on the issue of such transfers being exempt from any Medicaid penalty period. Cf. Mental Hygiene Law §81.07(g)(1)(v).”

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The simple description of the cause of action in this endorsed complaint, “failure to provide proper services,” belies the difficult legal and human issues that are presented by this claim by a daughter, on behalf of her incompetent mother, against the brother and wife who took the mother in, and against the agency that provided home care services.

Plaintiff DJ is the guardian of the person and property of SN, who is now 75 years old and resides in River Manor Care Home. As described in the order appointing Ms. DJ to serve as her mother’s guardian, mother SN “suffered a stroke that has rendered her aphasic she has partial paralysis, can no longer swallow. she is nonambulatory her cognition is nonexistent and she suffers from hyperthyroidism and vascular dementia.” From February 1998 until October 2001, mother SN resided with her son, defendant RN, and his wife, defendant JN. During that period, she received home care services from defendant Rockaway Home Attendant Services, Inc., a licensed home care services agency. In October 2001, mother SN was hospitalized for a month, and then transferred to the nursing home.

Ms. DJ alleges that mother SN was neglected by RN and JN and by Rockaway in that, among other things, she was not properly medicated, and was not given adequate food and water, with the result that she suffered serious physical harm. Ms. DJ was supported at trial in these charges by two sisters, Alice Gordon and Linda SN-Watts. Of course, Mr. and Ms. SN and Rockaway deny the allegations. The Newtons contend that this lawsuit is a manifestation of guilt on the part of Ms. DJ and her two sisters because they did not sufficiently attend to their mother when she was in a position to appreciate their attendance.

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This private placement adoption action presents a number of intertwined legal issues that highlight the shortcomings of the private placement adoption statutes in New York State. The infant who is the subject of the case has now been in the home of the petitioners since February 21, 1998 without the benefit of a valid adoption consent from the parents or a currently valid preadoption certification order.

The adoption agency that originally accepted custody of the child is no longer supervising this placement because it was not licensed in the State where the child was born. Additionally, the fees charged by the principals involved may not be entirely allowable under New York State law.

Unfortunately, there is little statutory or case law guidance available to assist the court in unraveling these dilemmas, and few satisfactory remedies available for the obvious failures of those charged with caring for this child to follow the statutory requirements contained in the Domestic Relations Law.

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It has been observed by our court that “the natural right of visitation jointly enjoyed by the noncustodial parent and the child is more precious than any property right” and that “the best interests of the child would be furthered by the child being nurtured and guided by both of the natural parents”. Indeed, a custodial parent’s interference with the relationship between a child and a noncustodial parent has been said to be “an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the child as to per se raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as a custodial parent”. Such interference with the relationship between a child and a noncustodial parent can take many forms, the obvious being the outright denial of visitation by making the child physically unavailable at the appointed time. However, the instant case involves a more subtle and insidious form of interference, a form of interference which, in many respects, has the potential for greater and more permanent damage to the emotional psyche of a young child than other forms of interference; namely, the psychological poisoning of a young person’s mind to turn him or her away from the noncustodial parent. In this case, if left with their mother, the children would have no relationship with their father given the mother’s constant and consistent single-minded teaching of the children that their father is dangerous. She has demonstrated that she is unable and unwilling to support the father’s visitation; and it was, therefore, an improvident exercise of discretion to deny the father’s petition for a change of custody.

The parties herein were married on August 21, 1982, and had four children together. The father left the marital residence in November 1988, and a divorce action was commenced the following month. Following a trial on the issues of equitable distribution, support, and maintenance held in April 1991, a memorandum decision was issued on June 1, 1992. Although the father had, during the early stages of the divorce action, stipulated to the mother having custody of the children, he moved, by order to show cause dated June 17, 1992, inter alia, for a change of custody to him, with the mother to be given only supervised visitation based upon what he claimed to be the mother’s “bizarre and dangerous behavior” which was “calculated to destroy the children’s relationship with him”.

In primary part, the father referred to the mother’s persistent and uncorroborated allegations that he was sexually abusing their children, her continuing to make new claims of abuse even though all other claims had been determined to be unfounded. He suggested the possibility that the mother herself may have caused the youngest child’s vaginal and rectal area to become reddened prior to the mother’s bringing her to the hospital. The father further noted the mother’s ongoing interference with visitation by various other means, including making accusations of sexual abuse and warning him not to engage in such activities in the presence of the children. In the father’s view, a change in custody was critical to the children’s well-being and mental health.

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This private placement adoption action presents a number of intertwined legal issues that highlight the shortcomings of the private placement adoption statutes in New York State. The infant who is the subject of the case has now been in the home of the petitioners since February 21, 1998 without the benefit of a valid adoption consent from the parents or a currently valid pre-adoption certification order. The adoption agency that originally accepted custody of the child is no longer supervising this placement because it was not licensed in the state where the child was born. Additionally, the fees charges by the principals involved may not be entirely allowable under New York State law.

There is little statutory or caselaw guidance available to assist the court in unraveling these dilemmas, and few satisfactory remedies available for the obvious failures of those charged with caring for this child to follow the statutory requirements contained in the Domestic Relations Law. What seems apparent, however, is that along the way many purportedly well-intended people ignored the law, creating a situation that puts this adoption in jeopardy.

After an initial review of the adoption petition and the supplementary documents supplied by petitioner’s counsel with his letter dated August 3, 1999 the court issued a decision identifying legal issues of concern.

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The respondent has moved to vacate this Court’s order dated February 21, 2007 which, upon his consent, extends his placement with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (“OCFS”) as a juvenile delinquent for twelve months and directs that OCFS continue respondent’s present placement with L & W, an authorized agency within the meaning of Social Services Law §371 (10).

In support of the motion to vacate the Court’s order extending his placement with OCFS for L & W, respondent contends that: (i) the Family Court was without jurisdiction to extend placement; (ii) the proceedings were defective in that the Court did not have the authority to reconvert the proceeding from a Person in Need of Supervision (“PINS”) proceeding to a juvenile delinquency proceeding; and (iii) even assuming that the Court had jurisdiction to extend placement with OCFS that placement could not be extended beyond his 18th birthday without his consent.

By petition filed pursuant to Family Court Act §310.1 on September 14, 2004, respondent was alleged to have committed acts which, were he an adult, would constitute the crimes of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree and Menacing in the Third Degree. Respondent’s initial appearance upon the juvenile delinquency petition occurred on September 27, 2004 and on that same date respondent entered an admission to the count charging him with committing an act which would constitute the crime of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree. Upon respondent’s admission to that count of the petition the Court directed the Department of Probation to conduct an investigation into respondent’s circumstances and prepare a written report to the Court, and the Court “temporarily” converted the juvenile delinquency petition to a PINS petition upon the consents of the Presentment Agency and respondent. Respondent was then remanded to the custody of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) as a PINS and the Commissioner of ACS was directed to arrange for a diagnostic evaluation of the respondent.

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In this appeal, we conclude that the subject children, facing the possibility of being separated from their only parent and returned to their native country where gang members have threatened their lives, may seek to have their natural mother appointed as their guardian as a first step toward obtaining legal residency in the United States.

The subject children, Samuel D.H., Marisol N.H., and Silvia J.H., ages 19, 18, and 16, respectively, were born in El Salvador to Miriam A.G. (hereinafter the mother) and Leonidas H. (hereinafter the father). According to the allegations made in support of the petitions, the father drank often, and he verbally and physically abused the mother. When Samuel was just four years old, the mother left the father, taking the children with her to her mother’s home. The father never again had meaningful contact with the children; he did not provide them with any financial support, give them any birthday or Christmas presents, or show any interest in them.

It is further alleged that in El Salvador, in the small neighborhood where the mother and the subject children settled, now abandoned by their father, they lived under the constant threat of violence from gangs. Members of a certain gang threatened to kill Samuel, as they did with many other children, if he refused to join their ranks, and they tried to extort money from his grandmother in exchange for sparing his life. Samuel knew nine children, one a close friend, who had refused to join that gang and were later killed. One gang member told the mother he would kill her, if she did not have sexual relations with him. The perilous situation led the mother to leave El Salvador for the United States so that she could establish a safe home for the children. She found work and lived with family and friends, saving money so that she could bring the children to her. Meanwhile, though, Samuel had stopped attending school because gang members had continued to threaten to kill him if he did not join them. Fearing for Samuel’s life, the mother arranged for him to travel to the United States. Marisol and Silvia stayed behind with their grandmother. Subsequently, while the children’s grandmother was walking home from work, she was killed by members of that gang.

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