New York Court Grants Custody Modification Due to Parental Alienation

In New York custody actions, the court’s primary focus is the child’s best interest. Typically, the courts find that it will benefit a child to foster the parent-child relationship. As such, in cases in which parents share custody, if one parent attempts to alienate the child from the other parent, the court may find it in the child’s best interest to modify the custody arrangement. Recently, a New York court delivered an opinion in a child custody matter, in which it discussed what evidence is needed to establish parental alienation sufficient to warrant a custody modification. If you need help establishing or modifying your custody rights, it is in your best interest to confer with a New York child custody attorney as soon as possible.

Factual History

It is alleged that the mother and father married in 2007 and had two children during their marriage. They entered into a separation agreement in 2015 in connection with a divorce action that was filed but discontinued. Under the terms of the agreement, they shared joint legal custody of the children; the mother had residential custody, while the father had the right to parental access.

Reportedly, in 2016 the father filed an action in the Family Court seeking to enforce the separation agreement. The father asserted that the mother was interfering with his right to parental access. The court subsequently granted the parties joint legal custody but awarded the mother residential custody. The court modified the plaintiff’s parental access schedule as well. In 2018, the father filed an action for divorce and other relief seeking sole custody of the children, arguing that the mother regularly interfered with his parental access. The mother filed a cross-motion for sole custody. Following a lengthy hearing, the court granted the father sole residential and legal custody of the children. The mother appealed.

Evidence of Parental Alienation Sufficient to Warrant a Custody Modification

Pursuant to New York law, in order to modify an existing parental access or custody arrangement established by a court order, the moving party must offer evidence of a change in circumstances that requires a modification to protect the child’s best interests. The court will determine what is in the best interest of a child by reviewing the totality of the circumstances.

In the subject case, the court found that the record included substantial sound evidence for the trial court’s finding that the mother alienated the children from the father by persistently and severely interfering with his right to parental access, in violation of the custody order. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Capable New York Family Law Attorney

When handling child custody matters, the New York courts typically try to preserve a child’s relationship with their parents, and if one parent attempts to harm the other’s connection with the child, the court may alter their parental rights. If you have questions about your options with regard to shared custody, you should consult an attorney. Ksenia Rudyuk is a capable New York family law attorney who understands the importance of maintaining the parent-child relationship, and if you hire her, she will zealously advocate on your behalf. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to set up a conference.

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