Published on:

Interference with grandparent visitation rights. Shimunov v. Davydov 179 A.D.3d 812 (N.Y. App. Div. 2020)


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.

Regardless of the parties involved, interference with court-ordered visitation rights is taken seriously by the New York courts. The primary concern in such cases is the best interests of the child.

Background Facts
The grandparents, being the maternal grandparents of the child. Following the death of the child’s mother in December 2017, the grandparents initiated legal proceedings to secure visitation with the child. The Family Court, after a hearing, granted their petition on February 13, 2019, permitting visitation every other Sunday at the father’s residence.

Subsequently, in March 2019, the grandparents filed a petition claiming that the child’s father had violated the February 2019 order by interfering with their scheduled visits. They sought to modify the order to allow visitation at their home instead. However, the Family Court dismissed this petition without a hearing on May 20, 2019. Dissatisfied with this decision, the grandparents appealed both the February 2019 and May 2019 orders.

Whether the Family Court’s decisions regarding visitation rights were appropriate, considering the best interests of the child.

The appellate court affirmed the February 13, 2019, order granting visitation rights to the grandparents but reversed the May 20, 2019, order dismissing their petition without a hearing.

The Appellate Division’s rationale stemmed from its assessment of the Family Court’s decisions in the case. It acknowledged the Family Court’s discretionary authority in matters of visitation, emphasizing that such decisions should be based on the best interests of the child. However, the Appellate Division found that the Family Court erred in summarily dismissing the grandparents’ petition alleging violations of the visitation order.

The Appellate Division reasoned that the grandparents’ petition raised valid concerns about the father’s alleged interference with their court-ordered visitation rights. It emphasized that the petition was not merely an attempt to revisit the terms of visitation but rather highlighted potential violations of the existing court order. Therefore, the Appellate Division determined that the Family Court should have held a hearing to address these allegations and evaluate whether the father’s actions constituted violations of the visitation order.

Furthermore, the Appellate Division underscored the importance of procedural fairness in such matters. It noted that the dismissal of the grandparents’ petition without a hearing deprived them of the opportunity to present evidence and substantiate their claims of interference with visitation. This procedural oversight led the Appellate Division to reverse the Family Court’s decision and reinstate the grandparents’ petition for further consideration.

While the court upheld the visitation rights granted to the grandparents, it directed a rehearing concerning the alleged violations by the child’s father. This decision ensures a fair assessment of the situation in determining the best interests of the child regarding visitation arrangements.

If you are a grandparent seeking custody or facing challenges in retaining custody, consulting with a skilled child custody attorney serving New York is crucial to ensure the best interests of the child remain the central focus. Reach out to us at Stephen Bilkis & Associates to schedule a consultation and let us help you navigate this legal journey effectively.

Published on:

Comments are closed.

Contact Information