In five cases decided May 1, 2013, the Second Department continued to voice its concern when parents just don’t get along. Again, the court considered joint custody, hampering the child’s relationship with the other parent, private interviews of children by the judge, contempt for violations of visitation orders, and whether a non-parent may be granted custody over a surviving parent.
In Wright v. Kaura, the Second Department reversed a joint legal custody award to grant sole legal custody to a mother. The appellate court noted that joint custody is encouraged primarily as a voluntary alternative for relatively stable, amicable parents behaving in mature civilized fashion.
Here, joint legal custody was inappropriate as the parties demonstrated an inability to cooperate on matters concerning the child. The record was replete with examples of hostility and antagonism between the parties, indicating that they were unable to put aside their differences for the good of the child. Thus, Acting Westchester Family Court Judge Thomas R. Daly erred when awarding the parties joint legal custody of their child.
In Lawlor v. Eder, the Second Department held that a father’s refusal to encourage and foster meaningful contact between the child and the mother was the basis to award residential custody to the mother, although the parents shared joint legal custody.
A custodial parent’s interference with the relationship between a child and the noncustodial parent is deemed an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the children as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as custodial parent.