Extraordinary Circumstances Warranted Award of Custody to Non-Parent
The Fourth Department, over a two-justice dissent, determined Family Court properly awarded custody of the child to the child’s half brother:
It is well-settled that, “as between a parent and nonparent, the parent has a superior right to custody that cannot be denied unless the nonparent establishes that the parent has relinquished that right because of surrender, abandonment, persisting neglect, unfitness or other like extraordinary circumstances’ ” … . Here, the evidence established that the mother and the father changed residences frequently over a period of 18 months, and they were evicted from one residence and were homeless for several months, living in a tent or their vehicle. The child changed schools five times in four school districts over that same time period and, with each change in school, the child missed at least several days and sometimes several weeks of school. Indeed, we note that “[u]nrebutted evidence of excessive school absences [is] sufficient to establish . . . educational neglect” … . The evidence also supports the court’s conclusion that the child had poor hygiene. Thus, the record establishes that the mother and the father have exhibited “behavior evincing utter indifference and irresponsibility,” and the court therefore properly concluded that extraordinary circumstances exist… .
It is well settled that, “once extraordinary circumstances are found, the court must then make the disposition that is in the best interest[s] of the child” … , and we agree with the court that the child’s best interests are served by awarding petitioner custody of the child with visitation to the mother and the father… . Matter of Stent v Schwartz, 2015 NY Slip Op 08535, 4th Dept 11-20-15