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Parenting Time Bullet Guide (Part 9): Upholding or Reversing Decisions on Appeal

Parents-adventure-300x200Recently, I’ve been publishing bullet-point guides on the topic of parenting time and visitation in child custody and divorce cases. So far, we’ve covered a lot of different points that may arise during these complex cases. In this segment of our guide, we’ll be looking at a quick snap shot about appeals, and when orders may be upheld, or reversed.

In the New York courts, decisions made about child custody, visitation, and parenting time rights must always focus on the “best interests” of the children standards. This means the courts will carefully consider all of the circumstances of the case, before issuing an order considered to be in the best interests of the child or children involved.

Of course, there will be occasions when the parents in a divorce or separation case will not agree that the order is right for the child. When this happens, parents may choose to work with a child custody attorney to appeal the decisions made by the court.

When Parenting Time Orders are Upheld on Appeal

The New York court evaluates all cases on an individual basis when it comes to making parenting time and child custody decisions. Orders are made according to what the court considers to be in the best interests of the children.  Often, but not always, an order on parenting time or visitation is upheld on appeal as appellate courts believe that the trial court is in the best position to assess and judge the credibility and circumstances of the parties before them.  Orders are more commonly changed when someone applies for a modification following a substantial change in circumstances.

  • Parents fight aggressively to get the custody order and visitation arrangements (parenting time) they consider to be best for their family. This often leads to circumstances wherein a parent might not be happy with the order issued by the court. Although I’ve seen many instances where parents have been able to work collaboratively to get their desired visitation schedule, there are contrasting circumstances, wherein a parent may want to appeal the decision of the court.
  • While it’s possible for either parent to work with a child custody attorney to appeal the decision of the courts made about parenting times, it’s not often that the decision will be reserved. The courts strive to protect the child from as much disruption as possible when making crucial parenting decisions. So for modification cases, which is different than an appeal, changing an order without any substantial change in circumstances would be seen as disruptive.
  • To determine how child custody and visitation rights should be awarded, the courts will need to consider a range of factors, including the testimony, character, sincerity, and situation of the parties involved. After a hearing the courts will then make a decision based on the best interests of the children. While parties can ask for the information to be reconsidered by the appellate court, these courts will often be reluctant to address the subjective factors considered by the trial courts for a second time unless there are reversible errors.
  • The court’s approach to matters of visitation and parenting time appeals can vary from one case to the next. However, the trial court is assumed to have evaluate the evidence carefully before making a choice. This means the decision of this court should not be disregarded lightly. If there is no evidence that the first court has somehow abused its discretion or ignored crucial evidence, most decisions will be upheld.

Can Visitation and Parenting Orders Be Reversed?

It is possible for a parent to successfully appeal an order made about child custody, parenting time and visitation, but the right circumstances must be in play. Generally, parents need to show that there was not a substantial basis on record to demonstrate the decision made was in the best interests of the child. If the court is considered to have abused its discretion when making a decision, the appeal court may be able to reconsider the case or send it back to the trial court for further proceedings.

  • Though rare, there are times when the appeal court may be able to reverse an order issued by the trial court about visitation and parenting times.
  • In all cases of family law in which children are involved, the best interests and needs of the child must be considered first and foremost. The courts of New York must always make decisions based on the best interests of the child. Usually, a trial court will make the right decision about visitation based on an evaluation of all the circumstances. However, there are cases wherein the appellate court may need to question a trial court’s orders.
  • Mistakes can be made by the trial court which would lead to improper visitation and custody arrangements.

Cases around child custody and visitation rights can be extremely complicated and confusing for everyone involved. If you have questions about the issues raised above, you can find more guidance on the blogs of this website. For additional guidance and a discussion of your own case, contact my office, via our contact form, or on: (516) 333-6555 to get on our calendar.  Initial consultations are free for up to the first thirty minutes.

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