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New York Family Court Keeps Jurisdiction Over A Child in Virginia

father's rights attorneysAn appeals court (Third Department in upstate New York) has recently held pursuant to New York Domestic Relations Law section 76-a, a Family Court located in New York State had continuing jurisdiction over a child until neither the child nor the parent of the child had a significant connection to the State of New York and there was no longer substantial evidence in New York State concerning the child’s protection.

History of the Case

Angela Lawrence and Guy Belcher had two children, a son born in 1999 and a daughter born in 2001.  They were divorced in the State of New Hampshire in the year 2005.  After the divorce, Guy Belcher moved to the State of New York.  He brought a custody case in the year 2007.  Pursuant to the decision in the custody proceeding, he received custody of his son and visitation with his daughter.  The daughter thereafter moved to Virginia to live with her mother.

Belcher eventually sought sole residential custody of his daughter in 2011.  In his petition for custody, Belcher claimed his daughter was being physically abused by her stepfather.  He also claimed the stepfather had physically abused his son while his son was visiting with his mother in Virginia.  Family Court Judge Courtenay Hall initially awarded the father temporary custody of the daughter but thereafter overruled herself.  She found the court in New York lacked jurisdiction to make any determination with regard to the case.  Guy Belcher appealed to the Appellate Division of the Third Department.

Appeals Court Decision

The appeals court held “initially, that the Family Court erroneously found, because its prior order addressed custody only with respect to the son, that the court did not have continuing exclusive jurisdiction as to the issue of custody of the daughter. ‘Child custody determination’ is defined, however, as ‘a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child’.”  This is pursuant to Domestic Relations Law section 75-a.

The appeals court took the position since a New York Family Court had entered a ruling with regard to visitation in the year 2007, it continued to have exclusive jurisdiction with regard to this matter.  The court cited in its opinion, the daughter had continued to visit with her father in New York during vacations and holidays.  The court’s decision stated “the son allegedly witnessed the abuse committed upon the daughter and was himself the victim of abuse and neglect.”  “Furthermore, the father witnessed the bruising and other injuries suffered by the daughter, and possesses evidence regarding a conversation he had with the mother following the incident in which she purportedly stated that the physical abuse was ‘no big deal and well deserved’.”

Conclusion

In the end, the appeals court simply felt New York was the “more appropriate and convenient forum” to make necessary decisions with regard to this case.advocate for father's rights and custody

About Elliot S. Schlissel

Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has spent more that 30 years representing individuals in matrimonial and family law cases.