Hearings Necessary in New York Child Custody Disputes

In a significant change in adjudicating New York child custody disputes, the New York’s Court of Appeals recently ruled that, in most cases, NY child custody and visitation orders should, only, be made after the parties have been given the right to a full evidentiary hearing before a New York court.

The recent NY Court of Appeals (highest court in New York state) decision in the matter of S.L. v. J.R., the NY Court 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 in the child’s best interest.

In reversing the appellate decision, the New York Court of Appeals noted, inter alia, 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 child custody dispute, find a lawyer in New York skilled in managing and handling hearings where evidence must be submitted in admissible form, who has experience in preparing witnesses for offering testimony and is familiar with the latest court standards and procedures.

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