The First Department, reversing Family Court, determined that respondent-parents should have been allowed to present evidence of their teenage child’s behavior in this neglect proceeding. The parents refused to allow the child to return home after a physical fight between the child and father which resulted in criminal proceedings against the child and an order of protection in favor of the father:
Parents are obligated to support a child under the age of 21 (Family Court Act § 413[a]) and to exercise a “minimum degree of care” in supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, and education … . In determining whether a parent has neglected a child by failing to meet that standard, the court “must evaluate parental behavior objectively,” by asking whether “a reasonable and prudent parent [would] have so acted, or failed to act, under the circumstances then and there existing” … . This Court has concluded in many circumstances that a child’s history of disciplinary issues did not justify a parent in excluding the child from the home while failing to cooperate with the agency’s efforts to address the child’s problems and to return the child to the home … .
However, none of those cases involved pending criminal proceedings and an order of protection against the child and in favor of one parent. Respondents were entitled to a full and fair opportunity to present evidence … showing that they acted reasonably as prudent parents under all the circumstances … , and that, based on a founded fear it would be unsafe for the child to return home, they were unable to continue to care for him … . Instead, the court limited evidence to the time period alleged in the petition, precluding respondents from presenting other evidence concerning the child’s behavior. Respondents also were precluded from presenting evidence of their attorney’s communications with the agency, which was offered to show their willingness to meet and plan with the agency provided that the child was not present and their attorney could be present. Matter of Elijah M. (Robin M.), 2019 NY Slip Op 05471, First Dept 7-9-19