Child’s Right to End Visitation with Non-custodial Parent

Siblings Nicole and Jordan witnessed their father physically and emotionally abuse their mother on many occasions. Often the children intervened to protect their mother from their father’s abuse. In 2003, Nicole’s father beat her after she told her mother that her father had removed some documents from her mother’s car. This incident resulted in the issuance of a full stay away Order of Protection. In the eight years since that incident, the children have seen their father on less than ten occasions.

In in re J.R. v. N.R. Nicole and Jordan’s father petitioned for visitation. Nicole was seventeen and Jordan was thirteen at the time the petition was filed. From 2002 until the case was decided, the father filed at least sixteen petitions in Family Court against the mother.  Both children vehemently opposed any relationship with their father.  The Family Court denied the father’s application for visitation and held that no further petitions for visitation could be filed by the father without the permission of the Court.

In deciding to prevent further petitions for visitation by the father, the Court in found that forced visitation with their father would not serve the children’s best interest and would instead cause them great anxiety.  The Court made the right decision but why did it take almost a decade for these children to be given a chance to move on with their lives?

Custody and visitation proceedings represent some of the most contentious and difficult cases that come before the Family Courts. These cases frequently drag on for years and have a detrimental effect on the children caught in the middle of legal battles between their parents.<Read More>

Tell Me a Story – In the Blink of an Eye

In a “precedent-setting case,” a California judge has ruled that a mother who suffered severe brain damage while giving birth to triplets must be granted visitation rights to see her children.

The mother, Abbie Dorn, and her ex-husband, Daniel Dorn, wed in 2002 but had trouble conceiving a child. After an in-vitro fertilization process, the couple looked forward to having not one but three children together. Complications arose during the pregnancy, however, and Ms. Dorn underwent an emergency hysterectomy after being deprived of oxygen for nearly 20 minutes. Although she survived the ordeal, she is, according to her ex-husband, “neurologically incapacitated”—a claim that is disputed by Ms. Dorn’s parents and lawyer, who argue that Ms. Dorn is still able to communicate to the outside world by blinking: “One slow blink means ‘yes,’ and no response means ‘no.’”

One year after the birth of the triplets, Mr. Dorn filed for divorce.… <Read More>

Visitation Rights of Non-Biological Parents

For twenty years, the New York Court of Appeals has refused to consider the best interests of children in cases in which a non-biological, non-adoptive parent petitions for visitation rights. In Debra H. v. Janice R., 14 N.Y.3d 576 (2010), the Court of Appeals upheld Matter of Alison D. v. Virginia M, 77 N.Y.2d 651 (1991) in which it held that only a child’s biological or adoptive parent has standing to seek visitation against the wishes of a fit custodial parent. <Read More>

Judicial Weapon 5: Justice Strikes Back for Mel Gibson

California Justice Scott Gordon has amended an existing custody agreement between Mel Gibson and his estranged ex-wife Oksana Grigorieva so that Gibson will now have joint physical and legal custody of Lucia, the couple’s “forever young” daughter.  The judge clearly does not know “what women want.” The previous agreement gave Gibson about 6 days of visitation time, with 3 overnight visits, every two weeks. The modified agreement will now give him about 24 more hours of face time with his daughter. The changes were approved despite Grigorieva’s vehement efforts to strip Gibson of any overnight or extended visits with his daughter (perhaps as “payback” for the  restraining order Gibson filed against her?).

Joint legal custody is exercised by parents if they cooperate in making decisions on issues that are essential to the child’s well-being, including school enrollment, change in residence, practice of religion, major developmental transitions, emergency medical treatment, and general medical care.

In the 2000 landmark case of Troxel v. Granville, the Supreme Court held that a natural parent has a fundamental right in the care, custody, and control of their child. A biological parent will usually be denied their parental rights only if their involvement in the child’s life poses a significant risk of harm to the child, as in child abuse. Although Gibson’s agreement is a relatively minor change in circumstances, the increase in visitation reflects this judicial reluctance to completely remove a natural parent from a child’s life.

Therefore, a judge will not heed any “conspiracy theory” Grigorieva may have about how Gibson’s presence in their child’s life is harmful to the child unless she can present some legitimate “signs” of actual or potential child abuse by Gibson.… <Read More>