The Third Department, reversing Family Court, determined that mother presented enough evidence in her pro se petition for a modification of custody to warrant a hearing:
“A parent seeking to modify an existing custody order first must demonstrate that a change in circumstances has occurred since the entry thereof that is sufficient to warrant the court undertaking a best interests analysis in the first instance; assuming this threshold requirement is met, the parent then must show that modification of the underlying order is necessary to ensure the child’s continued best interests” … . “[I]n determining whether a pro se petitioner made a sufficient evidentiary showing to warrant a hearing, we construe the pleadings liberally and afford the petitioner the benefit of every favorable inference. As a general matter, custody determinations should be rendered only after a full and plenary hearing” … .
In her petition, the mother alleged, among other things, that the father repeatedly attempted to take the child with him to a prison to visit an inmate who was convicted of murder and on at least one occasion was successful. She also asserted that the child had no desire to accompany the father on these visits and, in fact, they caused the child significant distress. Furthermore, the mother alleged in her petition that the father has refused to allow any additional parenting time, despite numerous requests, and that he has threatened to take away her court-ordered parenting time. Finally, the mother averred that she has completed therapeutic counseling, is continuing with further therapy and is a fit parent. We find that the pro se petition is sufficient to warrant an evidentiary hearing based on these allegations. “We also note that the prior custody order was entered upon consent of the parties and there has not . . . been a plenary hearing regarding custody” since 2014 … . Matter of Kimberly H. v Daniel I., 2020 NY Slip Op 03830, Third Dept 7-9-20