Articles Posted in Visitation

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In this case the Appellate Division examined whether the family court considered the 14-year-old child’s wishes when granting the father visitation.

In making decisions about custody and visitation, the Family Court’s primary concern is to do what is in the best interests of the child. The determination of what is in the best interests of the child requires an examination of a number of factors. One factor is a rebuttable presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents.  In other words, unless there is convincing evidence that it would not be in the best interests of the child to have visitation with the noncustodial parent, the court will allow it.  For example, if there was evidence that visitation would result in the child suffering serious emotional harm or physical harm, then the court would not order visitation.

If the child is old enough, the court will also consider the wishes of the child. In this case, the child, a 14-year old girl, was interviewed in camera.  It appears that the child did not want to spend time with her father, not because she was concerned that he would harm her, but because she did not have a relationship with him.  He was basically a stranger to her and she had no emotional bond with him.

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In this case the Appellate Division reviewed an order of the Family Court of Schenectady County dismissing a mother’s motion to seek visitation with her child. The Family Court’s decision was based on two factors:  the report of the forensic evaluator and the mother’s emotional outburst during the hearing.

In Matter of Jessica D. v Michael E., the father of a child born in 2007 was in 2008 granted full legal and physical custody based largely on the fact that the mother was struggling with drug abuse. In the same order, the mother’s visitation was suspended pending an application to reconsider such order. In 2016, the mother, who had not seen the child in several years, commenced a modification proceeding in Family Court seeking visitation with the child.  A hearing was held in 2018 during which the mother was the only witness to testify. A court-appointed forensic evaluator was admitted into evidence. After the hearing the Family Court denied the mother’s request for visitation stating that it would not be in the best interests of the child. The mother appealed.

In New York courts have determined that generally it is in the best interests of a child to have a relationship with both the mother and the father. Both parents have a right to have access to their child.  When making custody the decisions, taking many factors into consideration, courts seek to come up with an arrangement that gives both parents significant access to the child. A court will deny access if it determines that allowing access would place the child in risk of physical harm or serious emotional harm.  In the case where a parent is battling drug addiction, has no stable place to live and no job, the court will not allow visitation as that parent would not be able to provide a safe environment for the child. However, a court will consider modifying a custody arrangement if there has been a significant change of circumstances since the original custody order.

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In this case the Family Court considered whether interference with visitation was a reason to stop paying child support and whether it would cancel child support arrears. The father was awarded custody of the child and the mother visitation. The mother was also required to pay child support to the father.  She complained that the father was not complying with the visitation schedule.  She argued that she should not have to pay child support if she was not getting access to the child as outlined in the custody order.

The court takes interference with visitation very seriously. When the court issues a custody order, both parents must follow it.  This means that the custodial parent must deliver the child to the non-custodial parent at the time and place agreed upon.  Willful failure to do so is illegal.  If this happens occasionally, the court will likely only chastise the parent and warn him or her to comply with the order.  If it happens repeatedly, the court will view it as willful and take steps to ensure that the order is followed.  One remedy may be suspending the obligation of the non-custodial parent to pay child support.

In Vasquez, the mother filed a petition to hold the father in civil contempt for violating an order of visitation.  As part of the relief sought, the mother requested that her obligation to pay child support be suspended.  She also requested that the court cancel her child support arrears.  While the court noted that it has the discretion to suspend child support payments for violations of an order of visitation, it also made it clear that the court would not have the authority to cancel arrearages.  It further noted that in this case there was no evidence that the father actively interfered with the mother’s visitation.  The evidence showed that at times the child did not want to take advantage of the scheduled visitation, and the father did not force the child.

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Matter of B. v J.

2018, NY Slip Op. 02148

L.B., Petitioner, Respondent.

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This case calls upon the Appellate Court to consider the validity of a rule that was decided 25 years ago, in the Matter of Alison D. (77 NY2d 651 [1991]). In this case, an unmarried same-sex couple questioned the rights of responsibilities of having a child, in light of the fact that there was no biological connection between one of the parents and the child. This case discussed the rule that with an unmarried couple, a partner without a biological connection to a child is not considered the child’s parent in terms of standing to bring an action for custody or visitation due to the Domestic Relations Law sec. 70, 77 NY 2d 655). The Petitioners in this case ask for custody and visitation of the child. This court agrees that the rule that has been used through the years regarding this issue is no longer workable.

The parties entered into a romantic relationship and moved in with each other. In 2007, the Petition and Respondent registered as partners and later decided to have a child through artificial insemination. In February of 2008, the Respondent became pregnant. The Respondent had a child, and the Petitioner was there to support the Respondent in every way. The next several years were spent raising the child. But in 2012, they unfortunately decided to end their relationship.

In October of 2012, they began an action seeking child support from the Petitioner. The Petitioner denied any liability in the matter, and also countersued for visitation.

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Petitioner was an incarcerated in the New York correctional system and has admitted paternity of a child. He started this proceeding to establish visitation with his child after the mother would allow the child to visit their father in prison. The family court granted the petition, awarding periodic short visits with the child, who was three years old at the time.

The family court noted that the law in New York presumes visitation with a noncustodial parent to be in the child’s best interests. The fact that the parent is incarcerated is not an automatic reason for blocking visitation.

The court determined that the father was involved in the child’s life in a meaningful way prior to him being incarcerated. The father seeks to maintain this relationship. The court has felt that the child was old enough to travel, and would benefit from the relationship. The court also felt that the length of the father’s incarceration would be detrimental to the relationship.

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This case calls on the court to assess the continued fairness of a rule discussed originally in a case known as the Matter of Alison D in Virginia (77 NY 2d 651 [1991]/ Where an unmarried couple has a child, and one partner doesn’t have a biological connection to the child. This affects the child’s parent in terms of standing to seek custody and visitation pursuant to Domestic Relations Law section 70 (77 NY 2d 655). The petitioners seek custody and visitation in the present case. The court agrees that the definition of a parent as established in the older case has now become unfair.

The Petitioner and Respondent were involved in a romantic relationship back in 2006 and subsequently announced their engagement. It was only just a gesture because legally at the time the couple could not get married. Same-sex marriage was not legal in New York, and they did not have the resources to travel out of state.

They decided to have a child together. In 2008, the respondent became pregnant via artificial insemination. The Petitioner was involved throughout the pregnancy. They raised the child jointly as a couple. However, in 2013, their relationship ended.

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Legal counsel said that, the current motion by Petitioner is to vacate a determination of the Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to the effect that Plaintiff Corporation was an unlicensed home improvement contractor in violation of the Nassau County Administrative Code. The Cross-motion, denominated a motion by the Respondent, is to confirm the determination of the DCA.

The related action is by plaintiff to recover $90,000 held in escrow after the transfer of title to a single family residence from North Sea to the respondent. The $90,000 included $65,000 which was due to plaintiff on receipt of a Certificate of Completion, and $25,000 for work to be completed after the transfer of title. This Court has previously awarded plaintiff a judgment in the amount of $65,000. The respondent filed a complaint with the DCA that plaintiff was not entitled to payment because they were operating as an unlicensed home improvement contractor in violation of Local Law 6-1970, § 21-11.2.1 The parties appeared for a hearing before Hearing Officer, on June 19, 20082, and a determination was rendered on June 22, 2008. It found Elm Sea in violation of the ordinance and fined them $500.3 A Nassau Order of Protection Lawyer said that, plaintiff appealed and a final determination was rendered on July 9, 2008.4 The Commissioner of the Office of Consumer Affairs rejected the arguments of plaintiff that the work performed on the residence after the closing was in accordance with a contract of sale in which plaintiff, as owner, agreed to perform work on the premises prior to closing. The Commissioner distinguished between the work done before the transfer of title, when plaintiff was arranging for work on its own home, and work done in accordance with a “punch list”. The Respondent concluded that the change order was a contract for home improvement for which a license was required.

The Court concludes that the determination by the Respondent that the “Punch List” constituted a separate and distinct home improvement contract requiring a license for performance is unreasonable. The determination is vacated and the fine in the amount of $500 is set aside. There is no controversy but that the work done by Elm Sea on the home to which it took title on September 1, 20066 did not require a home improvement license. The work was done in accordance with necessary permits and was approved by issuance of certificates of completion.

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This was a case before the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Kings County.

It involved a Notice of Motion, Order to Show Cause, Petition and Cross Motion where the court was called upon to determine (1) whether the attorney for the defendant’s application to be relieved as attorney of record should be granted; (2) if the defendant’s applications brought pro se while still represented by counsel were properly before the court; (3) whether or not the defendant was entitled to a 30 day stay of all proceedings in the event counsel was relieved pursuant to CPLR 321(c); (4) whether or not the defendant was entitled to a second court appointed counsel pursuant to Judiciary Law section 35(8)(b) on the issues of custody, visitation and an order of protection; (5) whether or not the defendant should have had the benefit of a court assigned interpreter; (6) the sua sponte sealing of photographs of the child’s genitalia and buttocks which were annexed exhibits to defendant’s order to show cause.

The counsels of defendant’s application to be relieved:

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