In a significant change in adjudicating custody disputes, New York’s Court of Appeals recently ruled that, in most cases, custody and visitation orders should only be made after the parties have been given the right to a full hearing.
The recent Court decision in the matter of S.L. v. J.R., the highest court in the state heard an appeal from an order upheld by a lower appellate court that allowed a custody award to be upheld without conducting a hearing. The reason the lower appellate court upheld the custody award is because it determined that no hearing is necessary where the court had enough relevant information to make an informed decision as to what was the child’s best interest.
In reversing the appellate decision, the New York Court of Appeals noted that hearings allow trial-level judges to review the credibility of witnesses and the character and temperament of parents. Also, trial courts must generally hold hearings because a custody award should be established long term because it is in the best interests of children to not be shuttled between divorced parents.
Holding a hearing would also prevent reliance on hearsay statements and other affidavits whose opinion and credibility are untested.
Now more than ever, if you are involved in a New York custody dispute, find an attorney skilled in managing and handling hearings where evidence must be submitted in admissible form, and who has experience in preparing witnesses for offering testimony and is familiar with the latest court standards and procedures.
The implications of this decision remains to be seen. However, if you care about the best interests of your children in New York custody disputes, you must be prepared to show you are a good parent at a trial-like hearing.
*Gene Berardelli may be contacted at: GeneBerardelli@ipglegal.com
Gene is a New York street-smart attorney with an extreme passion for success. Gene specializes in litigation, arbitration and general corporate law for New York-based and international clients. He, also, is the host of a popular New York talk radio program.
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