The Third Department, reversing Family Court, determined that the court erred in awarding custody to the father without an evidentiary hearing. Mother had repeatedly promised to return with the children from New Mexico but did not. Although Family Court was justifiably irked by the mother’s behavior, a custody hearing was still required:
We do … agree with the mother that Family Court erred in granting the father’s custody petition without conducting an evidentiary hearing. “[C]ustody determinations should generally be made only after a full and plenary hearing and inquiry”… . A court’s final custody determination must be based on admissible evidence and not on, as relevant here, “information provided at court appearances by persons not under oath”… .
The record reveals that Family Court’s ultimate custody and visitation determination was made only after a few preliminary court appearances in which no witness gave sworn testimony or documentary evidence was received, and there is no indication that Family Court considered the various factors relative to the best interests of the children. While Family Court was justifiably irked at the mother’s actions in frustrating the purpose of the court’s prior orders, such actions, although certainly relevant, are not solely dispositive in this case on the issues of custody and visitation … . Because Family Court “did not possess sufficient information to render an informed determination that was consistent with the children’s best interests”… , the matter must be remitted for a full evidentiary hearing on the father’s custody petition. Matter of Richard T. v Victoria U., 2018 NY Slip Op 01364, Third Dept 3-1-18
FAMILY LAW (CUSTODY, DESPITE MOTHER’S FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SEVERAL DIRECTIONS BY THE COURT THAT SHE RETURN TO NEW YORK WITH THE CHILDREN, FATHER SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN AWARDED CUSTODY IN THE ABSENCE OF A FULL HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/CUSTODY (FAMILY LAW, DESPITE MOTHER’S FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SEVERAL DIRECTIONS BY THE COURT THAT SHE RETURN TO NEW YORK WITH THE CHILDREN, FATHER SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN AWARDED CUSTODY IN THE ABSENCE OF A FULL HEARING (THIRD DEPT))