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Nassau County Family Law Blog

Monday, September 21, 2015

Parents Admonished for Dragging Out Son’s Divorce Case

Can grandparents or other third parties get involved in family members’ divorce litigation?

In one recent New York case, meddling paternal grandparents became so entrenched in their son’s ongoing divorce litigation that the case dragged out for nearly 5 years and resulted in sanctions against their attorneys (not to mention massive civil fines).

The couple involved were married in 2005, but things quickly began to unravel when the husband experienced a life-threatening brain aneurysm. Throughout the ordeal, his wife and his parents vehemently disagreed on various aspects of his medical care, and the wife ended up seeking divorce a few years later. As a result of the conflict between the wife and her in-laws, she sought physical custody of their minor child with the right to exclude the paternal grandparents visitation at her discretion.

Upon hearing of this plan to potentially exclude them from their grandchild's life, the paternal grandparents made it their mission to drag out the divorce proceedings for as long as possible, instructing their counsel to “go after the mother with a vengeance.” After several years of legal wrangling, the court demanded to know who was paying the husband’s legal fees – and it was ultimately revealed that his father (a retired healthcare executive) was footing the bill for this apparently neverending divorce case.

While the facts above are well outside the norm, it is not uncommon for grandparents to get involved in divorce cases under New York’s third-party visitation laws. Under the law, grandparents with a close, established interpersonal relationship with their grandchild may be able to petition the court on their own behalf to establish legal rights to visit their grandchild – even if the parents are separated or divorced. These laws may also apply to other third parties such as aunts, uncles or former stepparents, provided the petitioner can prove a bond with the child.

If you are facing a difficult or unusually complicated divorce situation and would like to speak to an experienced New York family law attorney about a custody or visitation matter, please contact attorney Howard B. Leff, P.C. today: 516-739-7500.


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