May 5, 2016

DV LEAP Provides Amicus Briefs in Landmark Custody Case

Landmark Custody Case in New York's Highest Court

In the 2015 case of SL v. JR, DV LEAP filed two amicus briefs in support of the Petitioner's petition for review in the NY Court of Appeals (NY's highest court). This critically important custody case challenged a NY court's denial of a parent's due process right to a hearing before a custody decision. Here the trial court awarded sole legal and physical custody of the parties' children to the father and stripped the mother of all unsupervised contact without ever formally taking evidence or receiving testimony from the parties. 

The trial court also relied on a custody evaluator's report without allowing the parties the opportunity to cross-examine the evaluator or rebut her conclusions. In a resounding reversal, the NY Court of Appeals reaffirmed the constitutional principle that custody decisions should generally be rendered only after a full and plenary hearing and based only on admissible evidence. The Court of Appeals also noted that the "adequate relevant information" standard applied by the courts below failed to protect a parent's fundamental right "to control the upbringing of a child" and tolerated "an unacceptably-high risk of yielding custody determinations that do not conform to the best interests of the child."

When asked about the significance of this case, DV LEAP Managing Attorney Sasha Drobnick said,

"This ruling created a sea-change in New York courts' adjudication of child custody and requires a fair process for parents to present and challenge evidence."

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