It is in the best interests of a three-year-old daughter for the father and anyone regularly supervising his access to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or else undergo regular testing. So held New York County Supreme Court Justice Matthew F. Cooper in his October 7, 2021 opinion in C.B. v. D.B, directing that the father’s in-person parental access with the child be suspended until such time as he did so.

The Court noted that historically vaccines almost universally embraced as a means of protecting ourselves and our children from deadly or debilitating disease. With Covid-19, most people, heeding expert medical opinion, have availed themselves of vaccines that promise not only to protect them and others from the ravages of the disease, but ultimately to completely vanquish the virus. Unfortunately, for Justice Cooper, a sizeable minority, incomprehensibly seizing upon misinformation, conspiracy theories, and muddled notions of “individual liberty,” have refused all entreaties to be vaccinated.

In this divorce action, the issue was not one of whether the child should be vaccinated; she is still too young to receive any of the vaccines. Nor was it one of whether the Court could require an adult to be vaccinated; to do so would stretch the authority of a matrimonial court to unprecedented lengths.

Here, the parties were married in 2015, and their child, a daughter, was born in 2018. The parties’ high-conflict divorce action was commenced by the wife in 2019. Based upon the wife’s allegations of the husband’s history of substance abuse and untreated mental health issues, and significant periods where he had not seen the child at all, Justice Cooper directed that the husband have daytime access every other weekend visitation, but supervised, first only by Comprehensive Family Services (CFS), but later by his parents.


Continue Reading Dad’s Visits Conditioned on Covid Vaccination or Testing

Appreciation. Innovation. Frustration. All can be heard in New York County Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper’s May 18, 2020 decision in Chu v. Lin, dealing with parenting and marital residence issues in an ongoing divorce action. Justice Cooper begins with praise of the New York court system’s stepping up to adapt and press on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, it may “its finest hour.” At the same time, he bemoans the inadequacy of the new technology.

“While the true heroes of this medical emergency are undoubtedly health care workers, first responders, and other front-line workers who have put their health, and even their lives, on the line caring for others and supplying vital goods and services, an immense amount of credit must also be given to those who have managed to keep our courts open and running under the most difficult of circumstances imaginable. An independent, operational court system may not be an absolute necessity for sustaining life itself, but it is nevertheless an essential component of life as we know it in this country, as it is of any full-fledged constitutional democracy.”

In Chu, the pandemic exacerbated existing problems with parental access. Throughout the divorce action’s two-year history, a lasting resolution on custody and parental access had been stymied by a toxic mix of dysfunctional parenting, allegations of domestic violence, the existence of a Family Court Order of Protection, and an inability to abide by court orders.


Continue Reading Parenting Issues under COVID, Part II

Four recent decisions address the issue of whether “stay at home” orders and the generalized pandemic threat are sufficient to deprive a child of regular and meaningful personal contact with both parents.

No, held Bronx County Family Court Judge Ariel D. Chesler on May 7, 2020 in Matter of S.V. v. A.J.

A generalized fear of the coronavirus crisis we all face is insufficient to severely limit and perhaps harm a child’s relationship with a parent.

There, the parties were the parents 4- and 2-year-old children who lived primarily with their mother. Prior to the father’s current application, numerous Family Court petitions had been filed. However, no temporary or final custody orders had been entered. A January 16, 2020 order granted the father alternate weekend visitation. Moreover, a Criminal Court final Order of Protection directed the father to stay away from the mother. As a result, the children were being exchanged at a police precinct.

The visitation order had been followed until the New York and New Jersey quarantine orders were issued. Then, the mother unilaterally decided not to produce the children for three alternate weekend visits beginning March 27th. In response, the parties arranged through their attorneys for daily video conference visits to take place between the father and the children. However, when further efforts by the parties to resolve the issue failed, the father petitioned the court to enforce the temporary order schedule, schedule makeup visits, and to direct daily video conferences.


Continue Reading Visitation in These COVID-19 Times