The Third Department, reversing (modifying) Family Court, determined that an attorney for the child (AFC) should have been appointed in this custody modification proceeding and remitted the matter:
… [W]e reverse and remit for further proceedings conducted with the involvement of an AFC. This Court has previously noted that the “appointment of an [AFC] in a contested custody matter remains the strongly preferred practice,” while acknowledging that “such appointment is discretionary, not mandatory” ( … see Family Ct Act § 249 [a]). We have also “emphasize[d] the contributions competent [AFCs] routinely make in contested matters; they not only protect the interests of the children they represent, they can be valuable resources to the trial court” … . While advocating for the child, an AFC may provide a different perspective than the parents’ attorneys, including through the presentation of evidence on the child’s behalf, and may “recommend alternatives for the court’s consideration” … . Even absent a request, a court may appoint an AFC on its own motion (see Family Ct Act § 249 [a]).
Family Court had appointed an AFC for this child in connection with a previous proceeding that resulted in the September 2017 stipulated order. Yet, when — less than two months after entry of that order — the parties’ relationship deteriorated significantly, Family Court inexplicably did not appoint the same or another AFC to protect the child’s interests. The lack of an AFC prejudiced the child’s interests. Matter of Marina C. v Dario D., 2019 NY Slip Op 53953, Third Dept 11-27-19