Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New York Court of Appeals
In re Marian T.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the opinion of the Appellate Division concluding that, in appropriate circumstances, N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law (DRL) 111(1)(a) permits a court to approve an adoption even absent the consent of an adult adoptee and held that that discretion was not abused in this case.Petitioners commenced this proceeding seeking to adopt Marian, a sixty-six-year-old woman with a profound intellectual disability. Mental Hygiene Legal Services objected to the adoption on the ground that Marian's consent was required under DRL 111(1)(a) and that Marian lacked the capacity to consent. Surrogate's Court did not find that Marian possessed the capacity to consent but concluded that the guardian ad litem had the implied authority to consent on Marian's behalf. The court then approved the adoption petition. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that DRL 111(1)(a) authorizes a court, in the appropriate exercise of its discretion, to dispense with an adult adoptee's consent to the adoption. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Appellate Division correctly concluded that the statute provided express statutory authority to dispense with Marian's consent and that the court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that her inability to consent should not prevent this adoption. View "In re Marian T." on Justia Law
Pangea Capital Management, LLC v. Lakian
The Court of Appeals accepted a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals and answered that if an entered divorce judgment grants a spouse an interest in real property pursuant to N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law 236, and the spouse does not docket the divorce judgment in the county where the property is located, the spouse's interest is not subject to attachment by a subsequent judgment creditor that has docketed its judgment and seeks to execute against the property.A judgment creditor sought to execute against property that, in a divorce settlement, was to be sold and Wife was to receive a portion of the proceeds. The judgment creditor argued that, because it docketed its judgment before Wife docketed her judgment of divorce, the creditor had priority over Wife with respect to the property. The federal district court concluded that the judgment of divorce did not transform Wife into a judgment creditor of Husband but, rather, worked an equitable distribution of their marital assets. The federal court of appeals certified a question of law to the Court of Appeals, which held that the divorce judgment did not render Wife a judgment creditor of Husband, and therefore, Wife was not subject to the docketing requirements of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 5203. View "Pangea Capital Management, LLC v. Lakian" on Justia Law
In re Lacee L.
At issue was whether Family Court can find that the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) made “reasonable efforts” toward family reunifications, as required by N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1089, if ACS failed to provide the “reasonable accommodations” required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).Mother, an intellectually disabled individual, moved Family Court for a determination that ACS had not made reasonable efforts to reunite her with her child because ACS had not complied with the ADA by ensuring that she had access to certain services. Family Court responded by requiring ACS to provide the services Mother claimed as “reasonable accommodations” under the ADA. ACS generally provided those services. The Appellate Division determined that ACS had made reasonable efforts to provide Mother with services to facilitate the permanency goal of “return to parent.” The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the record supported the Family Court’s conclusion that ACS’s efforts met a minimum threshold of reasonableness. View "In re Lacee L." on Justia Law
Lisa T. v. King E.T.
The Family Court properly found that Respondent willfully violated two temporary orders of protection issued during the pendency of a family offense proceeding and that the court acted within its jurisdiction to enter an order of protection upon those findings.Petitioner filed a family offense petition against Respondent, her husband and the father of her children. Petitioner requested and received a temporary order of protection at her first appearance in Family Court. While the family offense proceeding remained pending, Family Court determined that Respondent had committed two willful violations of two temporary orders. The Family Court thus dismissed the family offense petition but sustained Petitioner’s violation petition and issued a one-year final order or protection precluding Respondent from communicating with Petitioner except as necessary to make arrangements for Respondent’s visitation with the child. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Family Court had jurisdiction to enter the final order of protection; and (2) Respondents’ challenge to Family Court’s finding that he violated the temporary order of protection was without merit. View "Lisa T. v. King E.T." on Justia Law
Matter of Jamie J.
Family Court does not retain subject matter jurisdiction to conduct a permanency hearing pursuant to Family Court Act (FCA) article 10-A once the underlying neglect petition brought under article 10 of the FCA has been dismissed for failure to prove neglect.Family Court directed Daughter’s temporary removal from Mother’s custody. The Department of Social Services subsequently filed a FCA article 10 neglect petition. Family Court eventually ruled that the Department failed to prove neglect and dismissed the petition. Family Court, however, did not release Daughter into Mother’s custody and instead held a second permanency hearing. Mother argued that the dismissal of the neglect proceeding against her ended Family Court’s subject matter jurisdiction and should have necessitated her daughter’s immediate return. The Appellate Division affirmed the second permanency hearing order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the dismissal of a neglect petition operates to discharge a child from placement, terminate all orders regarding supervision, protection or services docketed thereunder, and extinguish Family Court’s jurisdiction over the matter. View "Matter of Jamie J." on Justia Law
Odunbaku v. Odunbaku
Mother retained counsel to represent her in her efforts to obtain child support from Father. The support magistrate entered a support order against Father in the amount of $236 per week. A different magistrate subsequently modified the support order, reducing Father’s child support obligation to $25 per month. Family Court mailed the orders and accompanying findings of fact directly to Mother but did not mail the documents to Mother’s lawyer. Forty-one days after the orders were mailed by Family Court, Mother, through counsel, filed objections. Family Court denied Mother’s objections as untimely and confirmed and continued the Support Magistrate’s orders. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that if a party is represented by counsel, the time requirements set out in Family Court Act 439(e) for objections to a support magistrate’s final order, when the order is served by mail, do not begin to run until the order is mailed to counsel. View "Odunbaku v. Odunbaku" on Justia Law
Brooke S.B. v Elizabeth A.C.C.
At issue before the Court of Appeals in these two consolidated cases was the continued validity of the rule promulgated in Alison D. v. Virginia M., which states that, in an unmarried couple, a partner without a biological or adoptive relation to a child is not that child’s parent for purposes of standing to seek visitation or custody under N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law 70(a), despite their “established relationship with the child.” The Court of Appeals overruled Alison D., holding that, where a non-biologiccal, non-adoptive partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has agreed with the biological parent or the child to conceive a child and to raise the child as co-parents, the partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under section 70. View "Brooke S.B. v Elizabeth A.C.C." on Justia Law
S.L. v J.R.
Mother commenced divorce proceedings, seeking full custody of the couple’s two minor children. Father subsequently sought temporary sole legal custody of the children, alleging that he feared for their safety based alleged incidents involving harassment, extramarital affairs, and abuse of alcohol and prescription medication by Mother. The court granted that motion and granted Mother supervised visitation. A subsequent report by a court-appointed forensic evaluator concluded that Father was the more "psychologically stable" parent. During a subsequent appearance, the court set a briefing schedule and stated that it might “be in a position to determine custody sua sponte." The parties submitted briefs regarding Father's requested relocation and the court's ability to grant custody to Father without a hearing. One month later, the court awarded Father sole legal and physical custody, noting that, although the parties planned to continue to make attempts at reinstating supervised visitation, visitation and family therapy had been "suspended" for several months. The court did not conduct an evidentiary hearing, noting that the allegations were not controverted and the opinions of the family therapist, the court-appointed forensic evaluator, and the agency supervising visitation. The Appellate Division affirmed. The New York Court of Appeals reversed. The undefined and imprecise "adequate relevant information" standard tolerates an unacceptably-high risk of yielding custody determinations that do not conform to the best interest of a child and does not adequately protect a parent whose fundamental right is at issue. View "S.L. v J.R." on Justia Law
Matter of Columbia Cnty. Support Collection Unit v. Risley
The Appellate Division rejected the contention that consecutive commitments were not authorized by Family Court Act 454 (3) and concluded that "[g]iven the father's failure to contest the amounts due and his willful refusal to voluntarily pay them despite repeated opportunities afforded to him over more than three years, we find no abuse of discretion in the determination to run the sentences consecutively[.]" At issue is whether Family Court, in revoking two prior suspended orders of commitment, was authorized to order consecutive six-month sentences for each to run consecutively with a third six-month sentence imposed for a current violation. The court concluded that it was within the discretion of the Family Court judge to impose consecutive sentences for each willful violation. Willful violators of Family Court orders should not in effect be given immunity for past violations — conduct which would have justified incarceration at the time — solely because the trial court exercised restraint in fashioning a remedy that provided yet another opportunity to meet support obligations. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Matter of Columbia Cnty. Support Collection Unit v. Risley" on Justia Law
Suarez v. Williams
Child lived with his paternal Grandparents beginning when he was less than ten days old and continuing until he was almost ten years old. In 2006, Child’s Mother was granted primary physical custody, but Child continued to reside with Grandparents. In 2012, after Father sought custody from Mother, Mother refused to return Child to Grandparents following a visit. Grandparents commenced this proceeding seeking primary physical custody of Child. Family Court granted joint custody to Grandparents and Father, with primary physical custody to Grandparents and visitation to each parent. The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed Grandparents’ petition, concluding that Grandparents lacked standing to seek custody. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Grandparents established their standing to seek custody of Child by demonstrating extraordinary circumstances, namely an extended disruption of Mother’s custody. Remitted. View "Suarez v. Williams" on Justia Law