Articles Posted in Parenting Time

ParentsWalk-300x200Child custody, visitation, and parenting time cases are complicated for many reasons. The courts of New York are required to make decisions based on the “best interests” of the child or children involved. This requires a careful consideration of multiple factors, such as which parent can provide the child with the right level of care, the parenting skills of each parent, and more. It can take time for the court to be able to hold a full evidentiary hearing in order for both sides to present all the evidence necessary to make decisions regarding a child’s best interests. Until that time, though, temporary orders for visitation, parenting time, and child custody may be provided to guide parents while the final order is pending.  In Family Court they are called temporary orders and in a divorce, in the Supreme Court they are often called “Pendente Lite” orders which is a Latin legal term for an order while the case is pending.

A final order of custody, without the consent of the parties involved, if there has never been a prior custody determination, should not be made without a full evidentiary hearing that allows the courts to consider the factors surrounding “best interests” carefully. However, full evidentiary hearings may not happen for a long time, sometimes many months. If one side or the other in the case requests a visitation or parenting schedule when waiting for the final order to be provided, I find that the courts often attempt to ensure that each side has meaningful time with the child or children. The preferred method of the courts is generally to get the consent of the parents to a schedule that they both agree to for temporary orders. Continue reading

Mediation-Consultation-300x200When an inquiry comes in for someone inquiring about getting a divorce, someone from my office attempts to ascertain from them whether they are interested in using our office as a neutral divorce mediator.  If they’re interested in mediation, we invite them to bring their spouse to come in for a free initial consultation to meet with me.  We explain that I do not, at least initially, meet with the couple one on one, or have an initial consultation with either one of them before meeting the couple together.    The consultation is usually up to a half hour in length, although some couples choose to immediately begin mediating that day after the initial consultation. 

I might start by telling the couple that I am a divorce lawyer, but in a divorce mediation, I do not act as the lawyer for either side.  I inform them that it is recommended that each of them hire and use their own individual review attorneys.  I explain that review attorneys are the individuals that will explain the law, their rights, and advise each of them.  A review attorney might say, “This is a good deal” or “You might want to change this deal a little bit” or “You won’t do better in litigation” or “You will do better in litigation”.  Either side could prepare for mediation sessions, prior to each session, with their review lawyers.  They can then debrief with the review attorneys after sessions and prepare for the next.  If not beforehand, the time to consult with a review attorney would be when an agreement is drafted.  I might mention that in the perfect world everyone uses review attorneys, however, the reality is that not everyone takes me up on that recommendation.  I am not sure of the exact number but perhaps half of the mediating individuals use review lawyers and the other half do not.  The half that do not perhaps believe that they have educated themselves on the issues and think that the mediated agreement is fair and are ready to do it.  Either way I do tell them that review attorneys are recommended but usually not required (there are exceptions).  
Continue reading

Review-Attorney-Picture-300x199Most of the time, the appellate courts recognize that the trial courts of New York are given a great deal of discretion to make decisions about child custody and visitation aka parenting time matters. This is because it is recognized that these courts are in the best position to determine what is in the best interests of a child.  The trial court’s opportunity comes from the ability to assess the character and demeanor of the parties, witnesses.  The theory is that combining the court’s observations of the witnesses in the case, combined with the submitted evidence puts the trial court in the best position to make custody determinations. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, it’s unlikely for the appellate court to overturn the decision an appeal is made by a parent or parents who want to appeal a custody or visitation decision. However, it does happen at times and it may be possible for the matter to be overturned in an appellate court if the attorney for the appealing party can prove that that there was not a substantial or sound basis for the custody decision in the first place.

For instance, in the relatively recent case of Weisberger v Weisberger,  154 AD3d 41 (2nd Dept. 2017) the court found that the trial court’s previous decision to modify the stipulation and award full custody of the children to the father in the case was made without a substantial and sound basis in the record. According to the details of the case, the trial court gave excessive weight to the religious upbringing clause in the case, rather than focusing exclusively on the children’s best interests. There’s nothing to show that unsupervised visitation was detrimental to the children, and it was therefore inappropriate for the court to order supervised visitation. Continue reading

Lawyerlaptop-300x200Child custody is a complicated part of divorce and family law.

Parents will often fight tooth and nail to get the custody order that they believe is right for their family. Even after a court order has been ruled on by the trial court, one or sometimes both parties to the case may seek to appeal the decision of the trial court. However, because the trial court is vested with broad discretion to determine what is in the best interests of the child in mind when making custody decisions, it’s unlikely that arrangements will be changed in most situations on appeal. The courts in New York strive, in theory, to keep the disruption to a child to a minimum when making decisions about their future.

Typically, the decision of how to award custody is made in a trial court which is either the Supreme Court, in cases of divorces, or Family Court can also deal with child custody cases. The case law stands for the propositions that the trial court needs to be able to weigh various factors, including the character, sincerity, and testimony of the parties involved. The trial court has access to both parties and can supplement the information it learns from everyone with professionally prepared documentation and reports if such evidence is submitted. If one party in the case is unhappy with the outcome, then they can ask to have the matter reconsidered by the appellate court. However, appellate courts are often reluctant to re-evaluate the subjective factors addressed by the trial court. Additionally, decisions of trial courts are usually upheld, on an appeal, unless the party can prove that there was a lack of a sound or substantial basis, in the record, for the trial court’s original order. Continue reading

Parents have an obligation to keep their children safe and to make sure that a child’s naiveté does not put them in harm’s way. At the same time, most parents want to encourage some level of independence to help develop a child’s decision-making skills. In today’s society, with the prevalence of cellular phones, text messaging, instant messaging, and the like, the question of a parent’s right (and in some cases, obligation) to monitor their children’s phone use frequently comes up.

The general rule is that a parent is able to monitor their children’s cell phone use, including the text messages that have been sent and received. This can be done in a number of ways. The easiest way for a parent to view a child’stext messages is to simply scroll through the child’s phone. Parents can also view a log of all of the messages sent and received in most carriers’ monthly billing statements or online. There are also apps that allow for parents to monitor a child’s phone activity remotely.

Thus far, we have discussed monitoring a child’s cell phone activity to keep tabs on with whom they are talking and what they are saying. However, if a parent wants to use text messages in a New York family law proceeding, other issues may arise.

Continue reading

Many New York family law cases involve a child custody dispute. Most often, these disputes arise when the parents of a child or children go through a divorce and argue over who has primary custody of the children. However, in some cases, grandparents seek visitation or custody of a child. This may be after a divorce or even while the child’s parents are still together.In previous posts, we have discussed under which situations a court may award visitation or custody to grandparents. As previously noted, grandparents do not have a “right” to the custody of their grandchildren. Thus, custody will only be awarded to a grandparent if certain factors are present. Among others, a court must determine that awarding custody to a grandparent or grandparents is in the best interests of the child.

How Do Courts Determine What Is in the Best Interests of a Child?

Judges know the law. However, very few judges are trained in psychology, and fewer still are able to glean sufficient knowledge of a family’s dynamics through the evidence presented to the court. For example, much of the evidence presented in a New York custody case may be limited to text on a page, which may not provide a judge with much knowledge of the relationships between the parents, children, and grandparents. Additionally, any live-witness testimony has the potential to be biased or fabricated.

Continue reading

While any person’s definition of “family” might be unique to them, it’s important to remember that it’s the court ofNew York’s delineation that matters most when decisions are to be made around child custody, parenting time, and visitation. As a child custody attorney, I’ve been involved with several complex cases around how a child should be supported and raised by people within their family. As I have reminded my clients in the past, up until now, only a “parent” – as dictated by the courts, will be able to petition for visitation or custody according to the outlines of Domestic Relations Law § 70. Perhaps one of the issues that makes this idea so complicated, however, is that Domestic Relations Law § 70 does not define what a “parent” is. This means that the courts need to determine that for themselves.

In issues presented to the courts of New York, except for in the case of “extraordinary circumstances” a parent should prevail over a non-parent in a custody battle. The law, up until now, is that for unmarried couples, partners that have no biological adoptive connection with the child had no standing to seek parenting time and custody. However, extraordinary circumstances like abandonment of the child, surrender of parenting rights, and more can alter the situation. The court of Appeals in New York highlighted the definition of parentage in New York in the case of Alison D. v Virginia M., 572 NE2d 27 (N.Y. 1991). However, this outline has become less applicable in a modern world, where the family relationship is now more varied and complex than ever. The case that presented the previous definition of “parent” was established in 1991, and since then, times have changed significantly. Continue reading

If you and your partner have been hoping to have a baby, then the potential new law in New York could be the answer. After all, there are plenty of reasons why a couple might be unable toconceive a child on their own. Some people experience issues in conceiving, while same-sex partners are forced to seek out alternative options to the traditional method.  Adoption is often the answer.

For many, surrogacy can seem like the simplest way to create a family. However, the truth is that this process isn’t nearly as straightforward as it might seem. Not only is paying for surrogacy incredibly expensive, but the legal guidelines currently in place within New York mean that couples could be penalized for entering into a contract with a surrogate.  The article by Sheryl F. Colb in Verdict, Legal Analysis and Commentary from Justia on November 8, 2017 provides a thorough analysis of the topic.  This blog summarizes and in spots supplements the article

Understanding Surrogacy Law in New York

From a medical perspective, there are two types of surrogacy that can be considered by those searching for alternative methods of conception. Traditional surrogates are women who are inseminated with sperm to fertilize their own egg. This means that the resulting child is biologically related to the surrogate parent. On the other hand, “gestational” surrogates are implanted with an embryo that is created in a lab using the egg and sperm of the intended parents. In the case of a gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is not related to the child. Continue reading

When parents decide to bring an end to their relationships together or to their marriage in divorce, there areseveral complicated concerns that they’ll need to think about. Just one of those issues, involves how parenting time and custody should be handled.  When a court needs to decide the issues the court will look at best interests of the children.  Sometimes, parents can simply come to terms about child custody and parenting times on their own, through the process of negotiations through their child custody lawyers, mediation, or collaborative law. However, as a family law attorney, I’ve also seen many instances wherein parents have needed to turn to the help of the court to determine how a child’s care should be divided between spouses.

One common issue that can cause complications in deciding how a child’s custody and parenting time should be managed, is the presence of drugs, alcohol, or issues with sobriety in the lifestyles of one of the parents involved in the divorce. If a parent is known to have issues with sobriety, then it may be the court struggles to determine whether exposure to that parent is in the best interests of the child. Sometimes, visitation may be limited to “supervised” visitation, depending on whether or not the court believes that unsupervised visitation might harm the child in some way.  But also getting sober can be a significant positive to allow for a custody and parenting time order to be revisited.  Continue reading

There are various elements involved in ensuring the best results froma child custody case. Closing statements are one of the unique and valuable opportunities that child custody lawyers use when attempting to present their side of the story to the judge. Because managing a case with children involved can be particularly tricky, a summation or closing statement can provide a memorable way to draw all the facts of the case together into something that the judge can use to make their decision. Otherwise known as a “summation”, a closing statement, when performed by an effective child custody lawyer or divorce attorney, can sweep away any pre-existing feelings that the judge had, and replace their thoughts with a new insight into a custody case and why their clients desires are in the best interests of the child or children.  After all, that is what a child custody and parenting trial is all about.   

To some degree, a closing statement is similar to an opening statement. For instance, in both the opening and closing statements, the attorneys for both parties will have the opportunity to directly address the judge, and “discuss” the case, giving them a framework for understanding the role of each party in the case, and how the evidence should be considered. However, a closing statement can involve arguments that allow the child custody attorney to make their point more effectively, whereas an opening statement requires the lawyers for both sides to stick to the facts. Though arguments can be made about the evidence and how it was presented to help sway the judge or undermine the other party’s case, it’s worth noting that there are rules to follow. Continue reading