The Fourth Department, remitting the matter, over a dissent, determined Family Court should not have the requisite findings in this custody matter where a grandparent was seeking custody. Family Court had ordered the parties to stipulate to the custody arrangement noting that , if the parties do not agree, a hearing would be held. The dissent argued the order was not final and therefore was not appealable. The majority, assuming the order was not final, deemed the notice of appeal to be an application for leave to appeal:
With respect to the merits of the mother’s contentions regarding the court’s award of joint custody to the father and the maternal grandmother, we conclude that the court failed to set forth “those facts upon which the rights and liabilities of the parties depend” … , specifically its analysis of whether extraordinary circumstances existed to warrant an inquiry into whether an award of joint custody to the maternal grandmother was in the best interests of the child. ” It is well established that, as between a parent and a nonparent, the parent has a superior right to custody that cannot be denied unless the nonparent establishes that the parent has relinquished that right because of surrender, abandonment, persisting neglect, unfitness or other like extraordinary circumstances . . . The nonparent has the burden of proving that extraordinary circumstances exist, and until such circumstances are shown, the court does not reach the issue of the best interests of the child’ ” … . Thus, we agree with the mother that the court erred in not determining whether extraordinary circumstances existed before awarding joint custody to the maternal grandmother. The maternal grandmother here had the burden of establishing extraordinary circumstances, which remains the case “whether the nonparent is seeking sole custody or joint custody with one of the parents” … .
We conclude that ” [t]he absence of the required findings precludes proper appellate review’ ” … . Matter of Steeno v Szydlowski, 2020 NY Slip Op 01808, Fourth Dept 3-13-20