Visitation Rights Ruling Expands Definition of ‘Parent’ in New York:
ALBANY – The definition of “parenthood” has been expanded in New York.
The state’s highest court ruled Tuesday that the nonmarried, ex-partner of a biological parent may seek custody or visitation rights of children they once agreed to conceive and raise as co-partners with their exes.
The Court of Appeals, in a 6-0 vote, said that given the legalization of same-sex marriages and other societal changes that have upset the notion of “parents” as being a married man and woman, it was time for it to abandon the precedent of its 1991 ruling in Matter of Alison D. v. Virginia M., 77 NY2d 651.
Basing visitation and custody rights chiefly on the biological relationship between adult and child has led to a “needlessly narrow” interpretation of what a “parent” is, Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam wrote for the court.
“Alison D.’s foundational premise of heterosexual parenting and nonrecognition of same-sex couples is unsustainable, particularly in light of the enactment of same-sex marriage in New York state, and the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell v. Hodges (576 US __, 135 S Ct 2584 ),” she wrote.
The court said it could no longer allow situations to continue as have arisen under Alison D., where a nonbiological, nonadoptive “parent” can be blocked from seeking the rights of parenthood through visitation, yet be required to pay child support for that same minor.
The court said the fact that nonmarried parties had reached a preconception agreement to “conceive and raise a child” together is sufficient to establish standing for one of the parties to later assert custody or visitation rights.
The judges said they were going to leave for another day, based on different cases, what the proper test should be in cases where no preconception agreement can be shown to have existed between nonbiological couples.
In all cases, the court stressed, “the ultimate determination of whether those rights should be granted rests in the sound discretion of the court, which will determine the best interests of the child.”
The ruling in Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. C.C., 91, and Matter of Estrellita A. v. Jennifer D., 92, reversed denials by family courts in Chautauqua and Suffolk counties of visitation sought by the former same-sex partners of children’s biological mothers. The petitioners in neither case had married their partners nor legally adopted the children.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Judges Jenny Rivera, Leslie Stein and Michael Garcia joined Abdus-Salaam in the ruling.
Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote in a concurring opinion that he agreed with the outcomes in both the cases before the court Tuesday, but said he would not overrule Alison D.
Pigott said that the definition of “parent” contained in Domestic Relations Law §70 mandates that it be derived from marriage, biology or adoption and he said the state Legislature has done nothing to alter that definition.
“As we have said before, ‘any change in the meaning of “parent” under our law should come by way of legislative enactment rather than judicial revamping of precedent,'” he wrote, quoting Debra H. v. Janice R., 14 NY3d 576 (2010).
Read the full article here.
Everything you Need to Know About the New Maintenance Statute:
Ms. DePalo as the Co-Chair of the Matrimonial Committee for the Richmond County Bar has organized a seminar on February 3, 2016 to discuss the new Maintenance Statute that has been passed by legislation this month. Below please find the details for this seminar. All are welcome to join and attorneys who attend the event will receive two (2) Continuing Legal Education credits (1 credit in Professional Skills & 1 Credit in Ethics)
The RCBA will be having another CLE on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (registration at 5:30 p.m.) at LiGreci’s Staaten. Dinner will be provided during the presentation.
The topic is: Everything You Need to Know About the New Maintenance Statute.
Speakers are: Hon. Jeffrey S. Sunshine and Elena Karabatos, Esq.
This program will qualify for 2 CLE credits in Professional Skills and is a transitional course.
See the attached flyer for the cost and further details.
Catholic Divorce Survival Guide:
In an attempt to reach and support Catholics who are separated or divorced, Ms. DePalo is pleased to announce that she will be teaching a 12-week course “Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide”, that the Family Life/Respect Life Office is sponsoring in collaboration with St. Ann’s parish, commencing February 23, 2016.
This program is intended to bring hope and healing to those who have gone through divorce – even years ago, and to those who recently or are currently going through divorce or separation.
Under the guidance of the Separated & Divorced Ministry coordinator, Carmen Nosches, M.S., M.F.T., the program will be led and facilitated by Ms. DePalo. It will run every Tuesday from February 23, 2016 through May 17, 2016 from 7-9pm, at St. Ann’s Church Rectory, 101 Cromwell Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10304.
For additional information on the program, you can visit the CDSG registration webpage at
http://divorced.nyfamilylife.org/event-registration/. If you have additional questions or concerns, please email Ms. DePalo at ALDP@aldplaw.net or call Ms. DePalo at (718) 351-3748
The DePalo Law Firm has been accepted as a Participating Law Firm for Hyatt Legal Services, ARAG, Workplace Benefits, and the Legal Club of America.