Rudyuk Law Fim will continue to update you on new developments and information in light of COVID-19 pandemic which affects divorce litigation and family law procedures in NYC.
Last evening, New York State Unified Court System Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks issued an administrative order outlining additional steps the court system is taking to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“Effective immediately, the prosecution of any pending civil matters including any discovery that would require in-person appearances or travel is strongly discouraged.
With schools closed and parents’ work schedules altered, co-parenting may become even more challenging. Below are some tips on how to get through the difficult times with the best interest of your children in mind.
Accept the fact that your parenting time may need to change: Regardless of whether the parents reside next to each other or at different ends of a big cosmopolitan city, your parenting time may have to change. With schools closed and parents working from home, everyone will need to adapt to a new routine. You may now need more help from your ex to watch the children if your day is full of virtual meetings and phone calls. Perhaps facetime with your children will save them and you the risk of being exposed to the disease during your pick-up and drop-off commute. Even if you’ve been following a court-ordered visitation schedule, it is totally fine to alter on consent of both parents. Exchange text messages or emails with proposed new schedules and communicate!!!! Put your animosity towards each other aside and focus on safeguarding your children.
If a quarantine is announced, allow the primary custodian to continue to care for the children and have facetime with them instead of picking them up. Discuss how you can make up the missed time by, perhaps, adding more time with the children during the summer. Maybe spend time with the children in the primary custodian’s house instead of taking them outside. Be smart, be loving, be understanding.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE FROM MY FIRM:
As we all fight the unprecedented pandemic caused by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus), my firm remains readily available to our divorce and family law clients and new clients. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your divorce action, co-parenting during difficult times, child support, family offense or if you need updates or require assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can email me at email@example.com or Diana at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, do not hesitate to call at 212-706-2001 and reach us through Skype: Rudyuk Law Firm.
We are closely monitoring the situation and following information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization, regulators and local public health departments, the New York State Governor, the New York City Mayor.
In many cases in which a couple with a child divorces, absent an agreement, the court will issue an order granting one parent primary physical custody and award the other parent parental access. Custody orders are not permanent, however, but can be modified upon a showing that a modification is necessary due to a change in circumstances. Recently, a New York appellate court once again discussed what constitutes a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant a modification in a case in which a mother appealed the dismissal of a petition to modify custody. If you wish to seek a modification of an existing custody order, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced New York child custody attorney to help you seek an arrangement that is in the best interest of your child.
Facts and Procedure
It is reported that the mother and the father divorced in 2013. Initially, the mother was awarded physical custody of the couple’s sole child. Custody was then modified via a consent order in December 2015, which granted father physical custody and awarded the mother parental access. Subsequently, in April 2018, the mother filed a petition to modify the 2015 order to grant her physical custody of the child. Following a hearing, the father moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the mother failed to establish a change of circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification. The court granted the father’s motion, dismissing the mother’s petition. The mother appealed.
Evidence of a Change in Circumstances
Under New York law, an order establishing custody or parental access will only be modified if the party seeking the modification establishes that there has been a change of circumstances that requires a modification to meet the best interests of the child. A court will review the entirety of the facts and circumstances presented in determining what is in a child’s best interests. Further, in determining whether to dismiss a petition for failure to establish a prima facie case, the court is required to accept the evidence presented by the petitioner as true and grant the petition every favorable inference that can be drawn from the evidence.
In many marriages, one spouse will hold strong religious beliefs and will provide religious guidance to any children born of the marriage, while the other spouse will not actively practice religion. Accordingly, when a couple with such differing religious beliefs decides to divorce, the issue of what religious upbringing the couple’s children will have is often a point of contention. Recently, a New York appellate court discussed what role religion should have in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interest of a child in a case involving the divorce of a mixed-faith couple. If you and your child’s co-parent have different religious beliefs, it is advisable to speak with a proficient New York child custody attorney to discuss how those beliefs may affect your custody arrangement.
Facts of the Case
Allegedly, the husband and the wife were married in 2009 and had two children shortly thereafter. The husband and the wife both practiced Hasidic Judaism when they were married, but at some point, the husband became non-religious. The couple subsequently separated, and the wife filed for divorce. The court ultimately awarded the wife sole legal custody of the children and granted the husband parental access. The court also directed the husband to attempt to only provide the children with kosher food and to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the children complied with the requirements of the Hasidic religion. The husband appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in granting the wife sole legal custody and that it was unconstitutional to impose religious obligations on him.
Religion as a Factor in Determining Custody
In any case, in which a court must determine custody, the court’s main concern is what is in the best interest of the child or children involved. The court will assess several factors in determining what is in a child’s best interest, including the health of the parents and child, which parent can better provide for the child, and if a child has existing ties to a religious community, which parent can better serve the child’s religious needs. Religion alone cannot be the determining factor in deciding a custody arrangement, however.
Parent alienation is a significant factor which New York courts consider in child custody cases. Parental alienation can strain parent-child relationships if not identified and handled correctly. Parental alienation occurs when one parent influences the child to have “unwarranted feelings of fear, anger and/or disrespect towards the other parent.” This can cause the child to push away the alienated parent. Often in divorce cases, one parent will let their negative emotions consume them and allow them to manipulate the way their child perceives their other parent.
There are ways to spot parental alienation. Some signs include the child’s emotional withdrawal from a parent, the child’s display of separation anxiety, and the child refusing to spend time with the alienated parent. One clear sign is when the child asks about specifics regarding the divorce case, which they would have picked up from the other parent. To avoid parental alienation, the court can order both parents to attend a parenting education program, avoid using the children as messengers between the parents, and to communicate directly.
Often, it becomes necessary to take legal action in cases where a parent exhibits alienating conduct to prevent further damage to the parent-child relationship.
In deciding which parent should have legal custody of a child, New York Courts consider the following factors:
- Which parent has been the Primary Caregiver;
- Which parent is more available;
When contemplating a shared physical custody schedule for an adolescent, the child’s personality shall be considered.
One of the common arguments in custody cases is that children should be able to spend “equal” time with both parents so that they may develop a meaningful relationship with each parent. Many advocates believe that shared custody by default is in the best interests of the child. However, some children are highly flexible and adapt to being mobile between two homes; others do not.
The child’s unique characteristics such as personality and temperament shall be considered when determining whether shared physical custody is in the best interest of the child.