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Whether a father with a history of domestic violence should be awarded custody. Scott v. Thompson 166 A.D.3d 627 (N.Y. App. Div. 2018)


In Scott v. Thompson, 166 A.D.3d 627 (N.Y. App. Div. 2018), the custody dispute included allegations of domestic abuse. In child custody determinations, New York courts always prioritize the best interest of the child. When allegations of domestic violence arise, courts must evaluate their impact on the child’s well-being and safety. Courts examine whether either parent has engaged in acts of domestic violence, particularly in the presence of the child. This assessment is vital in determining the child’s best interests and the appropriate custody arrangement. The safety and welfare of the child take precedence, and any history of violence or abuse can influence the parent’s fitness to provide a nurturing and secure environment.

The frequency, severity, and nature of the domestic violence incidents are weighed, considering the potential risk they pose to the child’s physical and emotional health. Moreover, courts consider the protective measures taken by the victimized parent to safeguard themselves and the child from further harm.

By thoroughly examining the circumstances surrounding the domestic violence allegations, courts aim to ensure the child’s safety and well-being while promoting a stable and nurturing environment. Pursuant to Domestic Relations Law § 240(1)(a), in any action or proceeding concerning custody or parental access where domestic violence is alleged, “the court must consider” the effect of such domestic violence upon the best interests of the child along with all the other relevant factors. Ultimately, the goal is to protect the child from harm and promote their best interests, which may involve awarding custody to the parent who can provide a safe and stable environment free from violence and abuse.

Background Facts
The dispute arose when both the father and mother filed petitions seeking sole custody of their child. Following a hearing, the Family Court granted sole custody to the father, establishing a parental access schedule for the mother. A key factor in the case was the history of domestic violence between the parents, which was presented as evidence during the proceedings. Dissatisfied with the court’s decision, particularly regarding the consideration of the domestic violence history, the mother is now appealing the order.

Whether the Family Court failed to give proper consideration to the parties’ history of domestic violence.

The court’s determination that the child’s best interests would be served by awarding sole custody to the father has a sound and substantial basis in the record and will not be disturbed. The mother’s remaining contention is not properly before this Court.

The court’s paramount concern in any custody dispute is to determine, under the totality of the circumstances, what is in the best interests of the child. The Family Court awarded sole custody to the father after considering various factors, including the child’s best interests. Despite both parents having engaged in acts of domestic violence, the court determined that awarding sole custody to the father would serve the child’s best interests. The court’s decision was based on the totality of the circumstances, which included stability, available home environments, parental fitness, and the child’s expressed desires. Additionally, the court found that the father’s ability to guide the child, provide for their overall well-being, and foster the relationship with the noncustodial parent favored his custody arrangement.

If you find yourself involved in a custody dispute, it’s essential to seek legal guidance from an experienced New York family law lawyer immediately. These disputes can be emotionally charged and legally complex, requiring professional expertise to navigate effectively. A skilled attorney can provide invaluable assistance by explaining your rights, evaluating your case, and guiding you through the legal process.

In a custody dispute, the court considers various factors to determine the best interests of the child. These factors include the child’s established environment, parental fitness, past performance of each parent, relative ability to provide for the child’s well-being, and the child’s expressed preferences. Additionally, the court may take into account any history of domestic violence or substance abuse, as well as the stability of each parent’s home environment. By understanding these factors and working closely with your New York family law lawyer, you can present a compelling case that prioritizes your child’s welfare and increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome in court.

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