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Father Seeks Visitation in Adoption Case


A New York Family Lawyer said this proceeding is an adoption and a matrimonial wherein respondent father sought enforcement of the visitation provisions of a separation agreement. The mother and her new husband appeal, as limited by their brief, from so much of a judgment of the Supreme Court, Nassau County entered 20 October 1983, as, pursuant to an order dated 12 May 1982, removed the adoption proceeding from the Surrogate’s Court, Nassau County, and consolidated it with the motion pending in the Supreme Court, Nassau County, denied an application to dispense with the father’s consent to a proposed adoption, granted the father specific visitation with the child, and awarded appellant mother only $7,700 in arrears of child support.

The court modifies, on the facts, by increasing the sum of accrued child support payments from $7,700 to $8,020. Accordingly, the court affirms the judgment insofar as appealed from, without costs or disbursements.

A New York Custody Lawyer said on 4 November 1973, the appellant mother was married to the respondent father. On 1 December 1976 their only child was born. On 8 June 1979, the mother and respondent entered into a written separation agreement and on 28 July 1980, they were divorced by judgment of the Supreme Court, Nassau County. The provisions of the separation agreement survived the divorce decree.

On 31 August 1980, the appellant mother married appellant HEK and moved with S, the child, into HEK’s residence in Syosset. Appellants filed a petition for the adoption of S dated 24 July 1981, in the Surrogate’s Court, Nassau County. A Westchester County Family Lawyer said the appellants contend in the petition that the consent of respondent father was unnecessary because he abandoned the child as of July, 1980. Subsequently, respondent moved by order to show cause in the Supreme Court, Nassau County, for an order enforcing the visitation provisions of the separation agreement. Respondent’s order to show cause contained a provision barring the mother from prohibiting visitation during the pendency of the application.

On or about 23 March 1982, the mother moved, by an order to show cause curtailment and suspension of any visitation pending a determination of the adoption proceeding, seeking to hold respondent in contempt of court for failing to pay child support, seeking to consolidate the motion in Supreme Court with the adoption proceeding pending in Surrogate’s Court, and finally, seeking an award of counsel fees.

A Westchester Custody Lawyer said on 12 May 1982, the court ordered and directed that the adoption proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court be consolidated with the proceedings in the Supreme Court. The matter was set for a hearing, as the submitted papers were replete with factual issues.

At the hearing, the mother presented a portrait of respondent as being a man who had virtually no interest in his son, and who, despite her repeated requests, chose to have little, if any, contact with Scott. Further, she asserted that child support payments during the period of July, 1980 until July, 1981 were nonexistent.

On the contrary, respondent testified that he was always concerned with his son’s wellbeing. He indicated that his repeated attempts to visit with S were thwarted by the mother. He contends that he was not permitted to see S and was not even permitted to speak to S on the telephone. He testified that he sent S a birthday card every year, and on one occasion, left a gift for S with the mother’s sister. When he attempted to telephone appellants’ residence, the mother repeatedly hung up on him and disconnected the telephone line. As to child support payments, respondent admitted that he was in arrears but testified that he had provided cash payments on a few occasions. The only support payments subsequent to the divorce which respondent was able to verify were the receipts from eight certified checks for $50 each, all sent shortly after the proceeding for adoption was brought.

In the judgment appealed from, entered 20 October 1983, the application to dispense with the father’s consent to the proposed adoption was denied. The court finds that abandonment had not been established. The court instituted a specific schedule of visitation and awarded the mother the sum of $7,700 as and for accrued support payments, calculated at the rate of $50 per week for 154 weeks. The sum of $1,000 was awarded for counsel fees.

After reviewing the record, the court is unable to say that Special Term erred, as a matter of law, in concluding that the father had not abandoned S within the meaning of section 111 of the Domestic Relations Law. There is a heavy burden placed upon one who seeks to terminate the rights of a natural parent through adoption as held in the similar cases of Matter of Corey L. v Martin L. A finding of abandonment must be the product of such conduct on the part of a parent as evinces a purposeful ridding of parental obligations and the foregoing of parental rights akin to Matter of Corey L. v. Martin L. The Special Term apparently credited, as the court does now, the testimony of respondent that appellant mother was uncooperative in his attempts to maintain continuing contact with S. In view of the opposition which respondent faced, the facts, when fairly considered, do not support a finding of abandonment.

The court does not find error as to the question of whether it was proper for the Supreme Court to consolidate the proceedings pending before it with the proceeding pending in the Surrogate’s Court. Section 641 of the Family Court Act may not be read as curtailing the subject jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and the court now holds that the Supreme Court shares concurrent jurisdiction over adoption proceedings with the Surrogate’s Court and the Family Court. To hold otherwise might very well violate the provisions of our State Constitution which enumerate the powers and jurisdiction of each of the courts within the State system as held in Kagen v Kagen and Semintilli v Semintilli.

Finally, the court agrees with appellants that the calculation of the arrears in the child support payments was erroneous. The separation agreement provided that child support was to be in the sum of $50 per week until the child’s sixth birthday, at which time the support was to increase to the sum of $60 per week.

The judgment of Special Term was for $7,700, which represented back child support for 154 weeks, up until 12 July 1983, at the rate of $50 per week. S’s sixth birthday was on 1 December 1982. Thus, for a period of 32 weeks, the judgment provided for payments of $50 per week, when, according to the separation agreement, respondent was responsible for payments of $60 per week. The judgment is therefore modified to the extent of increasing the child support arrears to account for the extra $320 to which appellant mother is entitled.

In all other respects, the judgment is affirmed insofar as appealed from.

Nassau County Child Visitation Lawyers and Nassau County Child Adoption Lawyers may be contacted through Stephen Bilkis & Associates. Together, they work to simplify legal service for New Yorkers. Questions you may have regarding the case narrated above may be asked through our toll free numbers or a visit to our place of business near you. Nassau County Family Attorneys at our firm are the best when it comes to family related problems. We have been involved in countless litigation regarding the matter and have won a couple of times. We have the experience, skill, determination and competence. With us, you get your money’s worth and much more. Being able to help in the administration of justice is what makes us work beyond best.

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