The Third Department, reversing Family Court, determined mother’s petition for a modification of custody should have been granted:
Having concluded that Family Court’s determination lacks a sound and substantial basis in the record, we are empowered to make our own independent determination of the child’s best interests, and our authority in that regard is as broad as that of Family Court … . In reviewing the record, we note that the mother testified without contradiction that she does not abuse alcohol or drugs, and while she previously struggled with her mental health, the hearing evidence showed that she has overcome that challenge and achieved a stable home life. By contrast, we find problematic the evidence of the father’s regular drinking in the child’s presence and his apparent lack of candor during the DWI assessment, as well as the dirty and unkempt condition of his apartment. We also find significant the strong position of the appellate attorney for the child in support of the mother’s petition … . In light of the foregoing, we hold that the child’s best interests are served by having the parents continue to share joint legal custody but awarding primary physical custody to the mother, with parenting time for the father as the parties shall mutually agree … . Matter of Brittni P. v Michael P., 2022 NY Slip Op 06667, Third Dept 11-23-22
Practice Point: The appellate court, reversing Family Court, held the evidence did not support Family Court’s best interests ruling continuing primary physical custody with father. The appellate court undertook its own analysis of the record and awarded primary physical custody to mother.