In a recent case from Sullivan County, New York, Family Court Judge Mark Meddaugh awarded a grandmother sole custody of her grandson. The Family Court Judge awarded the grandmother sole custody because she had established “extraordinary circumstances necessary to overcome the father’s inherently superior rights to custody.”
Erica BB and Marcus CC were the parent’s of a boy who was born in 1997. Initially, Erica and Marcus had stipulated to an order giving Erica sole custody of their son. The father had visitation with the boy. Erica and the boy moved to North Carolina for a year and thereafter returned to New York. Erica and the child moved back in with the father and they lived together for about a year. Thereafter Erica moved in with the maternal grandmother. However, Erica had her own apartment and the boy lived with his grandmother, Maria DD.
Erica Is Indicted
In 2011, Erica was indicted. She was charged with aggravated driving while her ability was impaired by drugs. At the time of the indictment, both the father and grandmother had applied for custody of the boy.
Grandmothers Custody Award Is Appealed By Father
The appeal of this matter was heard by the Third Department, an Appellate Court located in Albany, New York. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Sullivan County Family Court awarding the grandmother sole custody. They found the boy had lived with his grandmother for approximately 10 years and had a close relationship with her. The Appellate Court took into consideration the father had been aware for several years the child’s mother was not capable of caring for the child. They felt he should have exercised his parental obligations and brought a custody proceeding several years earlier. They were concerned the father had waited until Erica was arrested before he brought his custody petition.
The Court said in its opinion, “In our view, this acknowledgment is significant in that it demonstrates that the father knowingly allowed the child to reside with the grandmother without attempting to assume the primary parental role under the circumstances in which it would have been reasonable in which to do so.” The Court went on to find “the father’s involvement with the child has been inconsistent and he is unfamiliar with the basic details of the child’s life, which, in our review represents a substantial abdication of his parental responsibilities.”
Dissent In The Case
Two Judges on the Appellate panel dissented. They stated “there is no viable claim here that the father surrendered, abandoned or persistently neglected the child nor was there any evidence that he was an unfit parent.”