Interference Can Be a Game Changer
In a decision entered in June of this year, the Appellate division, Third Department, upheld a Family Court finding that interference by a custodial parent was a significant change in circumstances sufficient to alter a designation of primary custody.
In Keefe v Adams[H1], a 2007 order provided joint legal custody to the parents of a son born in 2002. After divorce, primary physical custody was awarded to the mother, with alternating weekends and holidays with the father.
In 2009, the father petitioned for modification of child custody based on alleged interference by the mother and included the following complaints:
- Child was relocated 42 miles away without notice to the father or agreement, hindering the relationship of father and son, and requiring the child to change schools
- The mother was routinely 15 minutes to two hours late for visitation exchange, and verbally disparaged the father in front of the child
- Evidence existed that the boyfriend of the mother was promoted as a substitute for the father
As a result, the Family Court found the behavior of the mother was damaging to the child and deleterious to the relationship of father and son. In the best interests of the child, the lower court ordered, and the Appellate Court affirmed, a change of custody awarding the father sole legal and physical custody with visitation to the mother.
This dramatic family law case underscores the necessity of vigorous legal representation if the parent of your child is being hostile or interfering—or if those charges are being leveled against you.