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New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook by Joel R. Brandes is available online in the print edition at the Bookbaby Bookstore and other bookstores. It is now available in Kindle ebook editions and epub ebook editions in our website bookstore. It is also available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was written for both the attorney who has never tried a matrimonial action and for the experienced litigator. It is a “how to” book for lawyers. This 836 page handbook focuses on the procedural and substantive law, as well as the law of evidence, that an attorney must have at his or her fingertips when trying a matrimonial action. It is intended to be an aid for preparing for a trial and as a reference for the procedure in offering and objecting to evidence during a trial. The handbook deals extensively with the testimonial and documentary evidence necessary to meet the burden of proof. There are thousands of suggested questions for the examination of witnesses at trial to establish each cause of action and requests for ancillary relief, as well as for the cross-examination of difficult witnesses. Table of Contents

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Court of Appeals Overrules Matter of Alison D. and re-defines meaning of "parent" for custody and visitation purposes

           In Matter of Brooke S.B., v Elizabeth A. C.C., two related cases, the Court of Appeals revisited  Matter of Alison D. v Virginia M. (77 NY2d 651 [1991]) which held that in an unmarried couple, a partner without a biological or adoptive relation to a child is not that child's "parent" for purposes of standing to seek custody or visitation under Domestic Relations Law § 70 (a), notwithstanding their "established relationship with the child".  The Court of Appeals agreed that the Petitioners in these cases, who similarly lacked any biological or adoptive connection to the children, should have standing to seek custody and visitation pursuant to Domestic Relations Law § 70 (a) in light of more recently delineated legal principles, which required it to conclude that that definition of "parent" established by it in Alison D. has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships. The Court, in an opinion by Judge Abdus-Salaam overruled Alison D. and held that where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law § 70.  

          The Court of Appeals pointed out that the petitioners had argued that its holding that Domestic Relations Law § 70 permits a non-biological, non-adoptive parent to achieve standing to petition for custody and visitation requires it to specify the limited circumstances in which such a person has standing as a "parent" under Domestic Relations Law § 70.  It observed that because of the fundamental rights to which biological and adoptive parents are entitled, any encroachment on the rights of such parents and, especially, any test to expand who is a parent, must be appropriately narrow.  It rejected the premise that it must now declare that one test would be appropriate for all situations, or that the competing tests proffered by Petitioners and amici were the only options that should be considered.  It noted that the Petitioners had alleged in both cases before it that the parties entered into a pre-conception agreement to conceive and raise a child as co-parents.  It held that these allegations, if proven by clear and convincing evidence, were sufficient to establish standing.  Because it decided these cases based on the facts presented to it, it was premature for the Court to consider adopting a test for situations in which a couple did not enter into a pre-conception agreement. The Court specified that it did not decide whether, in a case where a biological or adoptive parent consented to the creation of a parent-like relationship between his or her partner and child after conception, the partner can establish standing to seek visitation and custody. Inasmuch as the conception test applied here, it did not opine on the proper test, if any, to be applied in situations in which a couple has not entered into a pre-conception agreement.  It merely concluded that, where a petitioner proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has agreed with the biological parent of the child to conceive and raise the child as co-parents, the petitioner has presented sufficient evidence to achieve standing to seek custody and visitation of the child.  Whether a partner without such an agreement can establish standing and if so, what factors a petitioner must establish to achieve standing based on equitable estoppel was a matter left for another day, upon a different record. The Court stressed that its decision addressed only the ability of a person to establish standing as a parent to petition for custody or visitation; the ultimate determination of whether those rights shall be granted rests in the sound discretion of the court, which will determine the best interests of the child.   The Court of Appeals agreed that the Petitioners in these cases, who similarly lacked any biological or adoptive connection to the children, should have standing to seek custody and visitation pursuant to Domestic Relations Law § 70 (a) in light of more recently delineated legal principles, which required it to conclude that that definition of "parent" established by it in Alison D. has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships. The Court, in an opinion by Judge Abdus-Salaam overruled Alison D. and held that where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law § 70.  


          The Court of Appeals pointed out that the petitioners had argued that its holding that Domestic Relations Law § 70 permits a non-biological, non-adoptive parent to achieve standing to petition for custody and visitation requires it to specify the limited circumstances in which such a person has standing as a "parent" under Domestic Relations Law § 70.  It observed that because of the fundamental rights to which biological and adoptive parents are entitled, any encroachment on the rights of such parents and, especially, any test to expand who is a parent, must be appropriately narrow.  It rejected the premise that it must now declare that one test would be appropriate for all situations, or that the competing tests proffered by Petitioners and amici were the only options that should be considered.  It noted that the Petitioners had alleged in both cases before it that the parties entered into a pre-conception agreement to conceive and raise a child as co-parents.  It held that these allegations, if proven by clear and convincing evidence, were sufficient to establish standing.  Because it decided these cases based on the facts presented to it, it was premature for the Court to consider adopting a test for situations in which a couple did not enter into a pre-conception agreement. The Court specified that it did not decide whether, in a case where a biological or adoptive parent consented to the creation of a parent-like relationship between his or her partner and child after conception, the partner can establish standing to seek visitation and custody. Inasmuch as the conception test applied here, it did not opine on the proper test, if any, to be applied in situations in which a couple has not entered into a pre-conception agreement.  It merely concluded that, where a petitioner proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has agreed with the biological parent of the child to conceive and raise the child as co-parents, the petitioner has presented sufficient evidence to achieve standing to seek custody and visitation of the child.  Whether a partner without such an agreement can establish standing and if so, what factors a petitioner must establish to achieve standing based on equitable estoppel was a matter left for another day, upon a different record. The Court stressed that its decision addressed only the ability of a person to establish standing as a parent to petition for custody or visitation; the ultimate determination of whether those rights shall be granted rests in the sound discretion of the court, which will determine the best interests of the child.  

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