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Mother’s request to modify in-person access to her children was denied. Khan v. Schwartz, 201 A.D.3d 718 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022)


Khan v. Schwartz, 201 A.D.3d 718 (N.Y. App. Div. 2022), involves a child custody dispute where the mother seeks to modify the in-person parental access provisions of a prior order that granted sole legal and physical custody of the children to the father.

In New York, the legal standard for granting sole custody involves a thorough consideration of the child’s best interests. Courts evaluate various factors to determine custody arrangements, and the overarching principle is to ensure the child’s well-being and safety. Factors considered include the parents’ ability to provide a stable home environment, the child’s relationship with each parent, any history of abuse or neglect, and the physical and mental health of all parties involved. The court may also consider the child’s preferences, particularly as they mature.

The standard is not based on a presumption in favor of either parent but on an assessment of the totality of circumstances. The goal is to create a custody arrangement that fosters the child’s emotional and physical development while maintaining a meaningful relationship with both parents whenever possible. Ultimately, the court’s decision aims to serve the child’s best interests, and it may order sole custody to one parent if it determines that such an arrangement is most conducive to the child’s overall welfare.

Khan v. Schwartz involves a legal dispute between the parents, Angela Khan and Meiyer Schwartz, pertaining to parental access rights concerning their children. The initial order, dated September 14, 2017, awarded sole legal and physical custody to Meiyer Schwartz. Subsequently, Angela Khan sought a modification of the in-person parental access provisions through a petition, prompting a legal examination into whether a change in circumstances justified an adjustment in the best interests of the children. The legal proceedings aimed to evaluate the necessity of modifications within the context of the children’s welfare. The court considered arguments and witness testimonies, ensuring that any proposed modifications align with the paramount concern of preserving the best interests of the children.

The central issue in this case revolves around Angela Khan’s plea to modify the parental access provisions. The court is tasked with evaluating whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances necessitating a modification to ensure the continued best interests and welfare of the children.

Holding and Discussion
The Family Court’s order of July 8, 2019, is affirmed insofar as reviewed. The court dismisses the appeal concerning the modification for the child C.S. as academic, as the child has reached the age of majority. The decision upholds the denial of the mother’s petition for modification, affirming the therapeutic parental access arrangements set forth in the original order.

The court’s decision regarding therapeutic parental access with the child M.S. was grounded in a careful consideration of the child’s well-being. The determination that such access could be detrimental had a sound and substantial basis in the record. The court took into account the testimony of the child’s therapist, the child’s express wishes, and various factors contributing to the child’s best interests. By prioritizing the child’s welfare and considering all relevant information, the court concluded that therapeutic parental access would not serve M.S.’s overall development and, therefore, denied the requested modification to the custody arrangement.

The legal case of Khan v. Schwartz emphasizes the intricate nature of parental access disputes and the crucial role of the Family Court in navigating these complexities. The decision, based on a careful assessment of changed circumstances and the paramount consideration of the child’s best interests, illustrates the court’s commitment to ensuring the welfare and well-being of the children involved in familial legal battles. It reflects the balanced approach needed in such cases, acknowledging the need for modification while upholding the fundamental principle that decisions should prioritize the children’s best interests. The court’s handling of the case underscores the nuanced nature of family law proceedings, emphasizing thorough consideration and thoughtful determination.

The court’s decision does not preclude the mother from seeking a modification in the future. In family law cases, modifications are typically considered when there is a significant change in circumstances that necessitates a reevaluation of custody or visitation arrangements. As such, if there are substantial changes in circumstances or new developments that impact the best interests of the children, the mother may have the opportunity to request a modification in parental access provisions in the future. Any such request would likely be subject to a thorough review by the court to ensure the continued well-being of the children involved.

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