The Third Department, reversing Family Court, determined the consent custody order, involving mother, aunt and great-aunt, may have been invalid because mother may have been unable to consent due to some unspecified disability, The Third Department noted that consent orders are generally not appealable, but here there was a question about the validity of the consent. The Third Department also noted that the attorney for the child (AFC), who disagreed with the consent order, does not have the power to veto a the consent of the parties:
We must first note that, as a general rule, no appeal lies from an order entered on consent … . Further, although Family Court cannot relegate the AFC to a meaningless role, the AFC cannot veto a proposed settlement reached by the parties, particularly after the AFC, as here, was given a full and fair opportunity to list objections to the proposed arrangement on the record … .
Here, however, we find substantial cause to question the validity of the mother’s consent to Family Court’s order. In the course of the appearances, the parties all appeared to acknowledge that the mother lacks the ability to care for the child on her own due to some disability, although the mother’s attorney objected to such a characterization in the absence of a legal determination. The AFC expressed concern about the effect of this disability on the mother’s “ability to . . . consent to anything.” Further, Family Court stated that “[the mother is] not in a position to make decisions.” In our view, this statement directly and expressly calls into question the mother’s ability to consent to the modification order … . In this context, the troubling allegations of inappropriate sexual contact raised by the AFC are particularly serious and significant. Our limited record thus does not demonstrate that the mother’s consent to the order was valid and, if not, that the court had “sufficient information to undertake a comprehensive independent review of the child’s best interests” … . Accordingly, in these highly unusual circumstances, we remit for a hearing and further development of the record on the issue of the mother’s ability to consent, and, if necessary, as to whether the custody proposal meets the requisite standard of promoting the best interests of the child. Matter of Erica X. v Lisa X., 2020 NY Slip Op 01224, Third Dept 2-20-20