New York Court Examines Modification of Orders Determining Custody

When tasked with determining parental rights, the New York courts generally aim to maintain the parent-child relationship, but the health and welfare of the child is their paramount concern. As such, in some cases, they will find it to be in a child’s best interests to limit a parent’s access to a child or order the parent to undergo certain steps before they award them custody rights. In such instances, the affected parent typically cannot obtain a modification of the order absent a showing of a substantial change in circumstances, as discussed in an opinion recently issued by a New York court. If you need assistance protecting your parental rights, it is in your best interest to speak with a New York child custody attorney to determine your options.

Case Background

It is reported that the mother and the father, who had children together, divorced. The court issued a divorce judgment incorporating a settlement agreement suspending the father’s parental access to the younger child pending recommendations from a therapeutic parental access facilitator. Subsequently, the father filed numerous motions, which ultimately resulted in the issuance of two family court orders, which he appealed.

It is alleged that the first order, issued in March 2023, denied the father’s motion to vacate a prior order and enforce parental access provisions in the parties’ divorce judgment. It also granted the mother’s cross-motion to enjoin the father from filing further petitions related to custody or parental access without court permission and awarded counsel fees to the mother. The second order, issued one week later, further enjoined the father from filing petitions to modify custody or parental access without court permission. The case stemmed from a history of disputes between the parties regarding parental access, culminating in the father’s repeated attempts to modify court orders.

Modification of Orders Determining Custody Under New York Law

On appeal, the court upheld the trial court ruling. In doing so, the court noted that the family court has limited jurisdiction and can only exercise powers granted by law. In the subject case, the father sought to change or enforce a prior order regarding parental access. The court highlighted the principle that custody orders can be modified based on a change in circumstances, but mere dissatisfaction with the existing order is insufficient.

In this case, the father had previously consented to the terms of the 2018 order, which suspended his parental access pending recommendations from a therapist, and subsequently sought to vacate it due to his child’s refusal to participate in therapy. The court found this dissatisfaction insufficient to vacate the order.

Furthermore, the court noted that the father’s repeated filings without substantial changes in circumstances amounted to an abuse of the judicial process, justifying the injunction against further filings without court permission. Finally, the court upheld the award of counsel fees to the mother, as it was authorized under New York law.

Meet with an Experienced New York Child Custody Attorney

The courts usually make measured decisions in child custody cases, and therefore, the orders they issue generally will not be modified absent compelling circumstances. If you have questions about your rights with regard to custody of your child, it is smart to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Ksenia Rudyuk is an experienced New York child custody attorney with ample experience helping parents protect their rights, and if you hire her, she will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk by calling 212-706-2001 or using our online form to arrange a meeting.

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