The Fourth Department, reversing Family Court, determined Family Court should have held a custody hearing without father’s participation:
During an appearance at which Family Court specifically stated that it was not “making any findings” and that it would make findings only after a future hearing, the father apparently grew frustrated with the proceedings and walked out of court. As the father was leaving, the court warned him that it would issue a permanent order in his absence. Thereafter, the court proceeded to hold a hearing, take testimony from the mother, and issue its determination on custody and visitation.
“It is axiomatic that custody determinations should [g]enerally be made only after a full and plenary hearing and inquiry . . . This general rule furthers the substantial interest, shared by the State, the children, and the parents, in ensuring that custody proceedings generate a just and enduring result that, above all else, serves the best interest[s] of the child[ren]” … . Indeed, custody determinations “require a careful and comprehensive evaluation of the material facts and circumstances in order to permit the court to ascertain the optimal result for the child. The value of a plenary hearing is particularly pronounced in custody cases in light of the subjective factors—such as the credibility and sincerity of the witnesses, and the character and temperament of the parents—that are often critical to the court’s determination” … . Matter of Williams v Davis, 2020 NY Slip Op 00777, Fourth Dept 1-31-20