Child Custody

Monday, November 14, 2016

New York’s Newly Expanded Definition of Parenthood is Put to the Test

Who might be able to seek custody of a child in New York?

In August, the New York State Court of Appeals issued a monumental ruling expanding the definition of parenthood in the state. Under New York’s new law, caretakers with neither biological nor adoptive ties now have standing to seek custody and visitation rights.  While this law is celebrated as bringing New York into line with several other states and embracing modern families that may include unrelated parent-caretakers, it has presented some challenges for courts that must now determine who exactly is the parent.

Read more . . .

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Reach Temporary Child-Custody Agreement

How can I establish temporary child custody pending my divorce?

News of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s pending divorce shocked the world and had many wondering how the couple would handle custody of their six children.  Media outlets are reporting that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have reached a temporary custody agreement, to last for the next three weeks.  The deal was entered into voluntarily and does not reflect any findings of the court concerning permanent custody. 

Under the temporary agreement, Pitt and Jolie have both agreed to individual counseling.  Pitt additionally offered to submit to drug and alcohol testing.

Read more . . .

Monday, October 17, 2016

NJ Judge Grants Temporary Sole Custody of Bombing Suspect’s Child to the Mother

What are the grounds for an award of sole custody in New York?

The mother of the child whose father has been charged with planting bombs across New York and New Jersey, including the Chelsea blast that injured 31, has been awarded sole custody by a New Jersey judge.  Ahmad Khan Rahami is currently facing federal terrorism charges, in addition to state charges in New Jersey for the attempted murder of police officers.  Rahami has been in court numerous times concerning custody of his child.  He has reportedly been in arrears on child support on several occasions.  In 2014, a judge approved a visitation agreement between the two parents.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Judge Ends Protracted Child Custody Battle Between Russian Oligarch and His Ex

How are custody disputes resolved?

A Stamford, Connecticut judge recently put an end to a four-year long custody dispute between oil and real estate mogul Shalva Chigirinsky and his former wife Tatiana Panchenkova.  The couple lives in Greenwich, Connecticut and shares four children, eight-year-old twins and daughters ages nine and 15.  During a two-day custody hearing presided over by Superior Court Judge Thomas Colin, some important observations were made in the high profile case.  The judge found that the parents had unfortunately become so preoccupied with their dislike for each other that concern for the children’s best interests had gone to the wayside.  According to Judge Colin, the kids lived in a shroud of anger and hatred due to the parents’ four-year custody battle.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A New York Mom Becomes First to Benefit From New Custody Laws

How might New York’s new custody laws impact me?

Recently, the New York State Court of Appeals issued an important ruling expanding the definition of a parent to include caretakers with no adoptive or biological ties.  Now, just days after the monumental ruling, a Manhattan mom became the first person to benefit.  The mom had filed a lawsuit seeking shared custody of her six-year-old son after her ex-partner attempted to move to London with the child.  With the new law in effect, the judge presiding over the case blocked the move and confiscated the child’s passports in order to conduct a hearing to determine custody.  Without the new ruling, this mom would not have had standing to seek custody of her son because she was not on the adoption papers, even though she was involved in the boy’s life since his adoption in 2011.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New York Tobacco Heiress Entrenched in Child Custody Battle

What impact could my dating have on child custody?

The tumultuous divorce between Anne Resnik, daughter of the late Philip Morris CEO, and Crocker Coulson recently heated up in Brooklyn Family Court.  The couple had a “no paramour” clause in place, preventing their seven-year-old twins from meeting any of their parent’s dates or romantic interests pending finalization of the divorce.  Recently, Coulson moved to have the ban lifted so that his children could meet his pregnant girlfriend.  Coulson urged that meeting his girlfriend, who will soon give birth to the twins’ half-sister, is in the best interests of the children.  Resnik made several allegations against her soon to be ex, including claiming that he visited a brothel at the time his girlfriend became pregnant.

Read more . . .

Monday, June 27, 2016

Gaining Custody—What Are The “Best Interests Of The Child?”

According to the guidelines for determining custody, the “best interests of the child” will hold substantial weight.  There are particular factors that a New York court evaluates to make a final decision regarding which parent is best fit to care for the child, many of which relate to the health and security of the child. 

Some considerations include:  the length of residence with a parent and the child’s primary residence, whether a child has special, emotional, or intellectual needs that could be better handled by one of the parents, as opposed to the other, evidence of domestic violence, or parental alienation.  Other factors include the location of relatives and siblings, with the goal of keeping siblings in the same household, alcohol and drug abuse and the parents’ mental and physical health, work schedules, a strong bond with one of the parents, and even the child’s personal preference towards a parent.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bill O’Reilly’s Children Choose to Live With Their Mother

How much weight does the child’s preference carry in a custody case?

When there is an issue of child support and two parents cannot come to a resolution, the courts will often become involved.  The courts decide custody matters according to the best interest of the child standard. This standard consists of many factors, one of which is the preference of the subject child.  The preference of the children has played a large role in an ongoing New York case involving a celebrity news anchor.

Famed Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly married Maureen McPhilmy in 1996 and they had two children.

Read more . . .

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Cases in Washington State Highlight Painful and Ambiguous Paternity Issues

 Who is the "real" father?

It seems that in this day and age, when DNA tests are readily available, it should be easy enough to determine paternity and to assign clear rights and responsibilities. Two cases have arisen in Washington State, however, that bring paternal rights into question, in spite of DNA and paternity affidavits. A group of dismayed men and women are trying to get legislation passed to clarify the situation. This bill is known as the "Stop Paternity Fraud" bill or "the Brandon Jones Act."

Lost Son/ Lost Family

Brandon Jones has not seen the boy he called his son for more than 10 years. He says, "We were both robbed." Believing that he was indeed the boy's father, Jones had signed a paternity affidavit at the time of the boy's birth. For the next several years, which included a deployment to Iraq, Jones considered the boy a close member of his family. The boy bonded not only with him, but with his parents and grandparents, and, later, when Jones married, with wife and daughter. 

When the boy was 7 years old, Jones went to court in an attempt to increase his visitation rights. It was only then that the boy's mother presented DNA evidence showing that it was impossible that Jones was the boy's father. In a nightmarish twist of the King Solomon story, the court then declared that Jones had no visitation rights at all. To paraphrase Jones, the boy he called his son was "ripped out" of his life and out of the life of his extended family.

Ironically, and tragically, since Jones' name is still on the paternity affidavit, and since that document cannot be changed after four years have passed, he is still legally considered the boy's father and is required to pay monthly child support for a boy the court will not permit him to visit.

The Other Side of the Coin Is Equally Painful

C.J. Abernathey's case is a terrible reversal of the Jones case. Abernathey has not seen his 5- year-old daughter for a year and a half. He says losing the child "destroyed me." In his case, DNA proved that he is the child's biological father even though the child's mother was married to someone else at the time of the girl's birth. The mother's husband's name has been on the paternity affidavit right along, and though all parties knew and understood the actual situation, no one ever informed Abernathey about the four-year rule governing paternity affidavits. Recently, when visitation rights became a source of conflict, a judge ruled that Abernathey no longer has rights to see his biological daughter.

The System Fails

Clearly, in both of these cases, the legal system, complete with paternity affidavits and DNA evidence, has failed the children and "fathers" in question. Both men have now joined the group mentioned earlier that is attempting to change paternity laws so they do not "chop up" loving relationships. The group is working toward establishing the right of presumed parents to have two years from the time of the paternity test to take the case to court.

Although paternity laws differ from state to state, they are often complex and sometimes contradictory. No matter which state a parent resides in, it is always in his or her best interest to engage the services of a skilled and knowledgeable family attorney when dealing with paternity, visitation, and custody issues.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

NY Court Attempts to Unravel Complex Custody Case

How are New York’s custody laws adapting to the ever-changing Alternative Reproduction Technology (ART) landscape?

Fortunately, advances in modern medical technology have allowed otherwise infertile couples the opportunity to bear and raise their own biological children, often with the help of a gestational carrier or via in vitro fertilization. While the law has historically lagged behind science in virtually every industry, changes in the infertility landscape have likewise resulted in one of the most confounding custody cases in recent memory – involving four separate parents, each with a viable argument for custodial rights.

Four parents, One Child

In an unbelievable parenting experiment gone awry, a member of a same-sex male couple donated his sperm to a member of a same-sex female couple, resulting in the birth of a child. The two couples rented adjacent apartments, which were decorated identically and designed to create a seamless environment for the child as it rotated from time with one couple to the other. However, within a year’s time, the arrangement collapsed, and all four individuals sought custodial rights from the New York Family Court.

The biological perspective

Biologically speaking, child has two parents. These two parents are undoubtedly listed on the child’s birth certificate and maintain the status of holding “parentage” over the child. Biological or adoptive parents with full parental rights intact typically maintain exclusive say over issues like custody and visitation. In a case like this, however, the other non-biological partners may also have a strong argument for the establishment of custodial and visitation rights.

In a statement by counsel for one of the women, “It has been my experience that biology does not [always] win out….” In this case, for instance, the court reviewed the petitions of all four parents to determine the best possible outcome for the child, notwithstanding the biological ties that bind. In the end, the court undoubtedly arranged a custody and visitation plan that not only upholds the best interests of the child, but works to maintain family unity as best as possible.

If you are experiencing a difficult family law situation, please do not hesitate to contact Howard B. Leff in New York City today: 516-739-7500.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Divorce Settlements

What should you ask for in divorce settlement negotiations?

It was a hard decision, but you have finally decided that you want a divorce. Unfortunately, it might get worse before it gets better. At this point, you have to contemplate what your situation will be like after you transition from being part of a couple to being a single person. There are financial and logistical matters to address and an experienced divorce attorney can assist you in identifying and obtaining what you want out of your divorce settlement.

If you have children, they are likely your number one priority. Decisions relating to children can be difficult, but they must be thought through. Do you want custody of your kids or would you prefer visitation? Are you likely to get custody if you petition for it? If do not want or receive custody, can you pay child support? All of these matters can be agreed upon or litigated and incorporated into your divorce settlement agreement. It is always best to negotiate agreements that are as detailed as possible when it comes to custody, visitation and support matters, as these agreements are difficult and expensive to modify after the fact.

Another important matter is where you will live after your divorce. Do you want to stay in the marital home? Can you afford to buy your partner out and make any necessary monthly payments? Or would you rather sell and move somewhere that is better suited to your new status? You can work out all of the details of either buying or selling the family home and including these terms in your divorce settlement agreement.

It is also essential to think about your greater financial future. Can you afford to live on your own after your divorce? Will you need time to get back on your feet? Will you need maintenance during the transition? You must also make an accounting of all of your assets and liabilities, especially those held jointly, and determine how each will be dealt with. Do you have any assets, such as a house, that you will not be able to afford to maintain? Would it be better to liquidate these? You must also think about joint debt. Which spouse should be responsible for which debts?

More than likely, you and your spouse will have differing opinions on many of these issues.  You will have to negotiate and possibly compromise to put together a divorce settlement agreement that works for both of you. That is why it is essential to have the best attorney possible by your side.

Nassau County, New York divorce attorney Howard B. Leff has years of experience working with individuals going through a divorce.  Contact his office today at (516)739-7500 for a consultation.

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