Although the custody modification awarding sole custody to mother was upheld by the Third Department, the court was troubled by the requirement that father’s other children could not be present during father’s parenting time with the subject child. The restriction goes against the general policy that bonds with siblings should be strengthened and the record was not sufficient to warrant the ruling. The matter was sent back for further development of the evidence:
… [T]here is a dearth of record evidence supporting the provision limiting all parenting time with the father to periods when the child’s older half siblings are not present. Considering the father’s testimony upon cross-examination admitting to some prior unspecified incidents apparently involving the corporal punishment of his older children, meaningful support was not wholly lacking. These prior incidents had resulted in the imposition of supervised visitation with the older children. However, there was no evidence produced to clarify or explain any detail or establish any of the circumstances underlying these admissions. No documents or other proof or testimony was offered or entered. The father testified that the restrictions that had previously been imposed had expired at the time of the hearing. Nothing more was revealed, and the underlying facts were left wholly undeveloped.
Despite the argument by the attorney for the child that limiting the father’s time with this child to periods when the half siblings are not present will protect the child by allowing the father to focus on the child exclusively, the provision is troubling. The law strongly favors the development and encouragement of sibling bonds … . The father’s apparent history of inappropriate corporal punishment certainly raises issues of significant concern. Nonetheless, the issue is too poorly developed in the record to support the argument advanced by the attorney for the child. Matter of Demers v McLear, 2015 NY Slip Op 06178, 3rd Dept 7-16-15