In fact, we may have all failed the Y. family children (name deleted at the request of the family). Their parents have spent the last four years fighting in court. Their custody litigation will likely last at least another two years.
The result: one child who may be suicidal; the other self-mutilating.
Reading appellate court decisions cannot possibly reveal the nuances faced by sitting Family Court Judges. This, then is not a critique of any one particular decision. Rather, we must acknowledge that the overburdened judicial system may no longer be able to serve “the best interests of the children.” In fact, the court system itself may be hurting our children far more than any decision.
After four years of litigation, including the year needed to obtain this decision, the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Matter of Dana H. v. James Y., sentenced the Y.-family children to another two years of court fights . . . . unless their parents can get their act together.
James Y. and Dana Y. H. (now-remarried) divorced in 2004. At that time they had agreed to share joint custody, with the mother having primary physical custody. However, the mother relocated with the children to South Carolina without the permission of either the father or the Family Court.
As a result of the mother’s relocation, physical custody was transferred to the father. He moved with the children to live with his mother.
Both parties then petitioned the Family Court for sole custody of the children, with the mother also finally seeking for permission to relocate the children to live with her and her new husband in South Carolina.
After a trial conducted over the span of a year, Nassau County Family Court Judge Conrad Singer by his June 23, 2008 order determined that the mother would be awarded sole custody of the children, provided that within six months she returned to live in New York.
On the other hand, if the mother refused to return to New York, it would be the father who would have physical custody of the children, but the mother would have final decision-making authority concerning the children’s welfare, education, medical, and mental health issues, except in the event of an emergency.
Ms. H., indeed, elected not to relocate to New York.