The Fourth Department determined custody of the children was properly granted to father, against the children’s wishes. The attorney for the child (AFC) informed the court of the children’s wishes but supported custody by the father. The mother unsuccessfully argued a Lincoln hearing should have been held. The dissent agreed that a Lincoln hearing was necessary:
The mother further contends that the court erred in declining to conduct a Lincoln hearing. Inasmuch as the AFC expressed the children’s wishes to the court … , the children were both of young age … , and there are indications in the record that they were being coached on what to say to the court … , we perceive no abuse of discretion in the court’s denial of the mother’s request for a Lincoln hearing … . * * *
From the dissent:
While the decision whether to conduct a Lincoln hearing is discretionary, it is ” often the preferable course’ ” to conduct one … . Indeed, a child’s preference, although not determinative, is an “important” factor that provides the court, while considering the potential for influence and the child’s age and maturity, “some indication of what is in the child’s best interests” … . In addition, the in camera testimony of a child may ” on the whole benefit the child by obtaining for the [court] significant pieces of information [it] needs to make the soundest possible decision’ ” … .
In this case, the children were 10 and 7 years old, respectively, at the time of the proceeding, ages at which a child’s “wishes [are] not necessarily entitled to the great weight’ we accord to the preferences of older adolescents . . . [but are], at minimum, entitled to consideration’ ” … . Most importantly, the Attorney for the Children (AFC) substituted his judgment for that of the children and advocated that custody be transferred from the mother to the father, despite the fact that the children had been in the mother’s custody since birth and the fact that the father admitted to having committed an act of domestic violence against the mother. While the AFC did inform the court of the children’s expressed wishes to live with the mother, in my view, the court should have conducted a Lincoln hearing to consider those wishes and the reasons for them. Matter of Muriel v Muriel, 2020 NY Slip Op 00776, Fourth Dept 1-31-20