On December 11th, 2019, a New York appeals court denied a father’s petition to obtain a child custody & visitation modification. In the case of Rosenblatt v. Ritter, the New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department court ruled that he failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish a substantial change in circumstances that would warrant a modification in order to promote the best interests of the children.
The Father Sought Therapeutic Parental Access
The father in this case was incarcerated in Florida from 2008 until 2016. Partially, though not entirely, due to the period of incarceration, he had developed no real relationship with his two children. Further, he had not provided his ex-wife any financial support. Under the terms of the initial default judgement entered against him in 2004, his visitation rights were wholly dependent on the mother. She had the authority to deny him any access to the children. However, after his release he sought to amend the custody and visitation order to allow for therapeutic parental access.
Therapeutic Access is a Form of Supervised Visitation
The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) notes that therapeutic parental access is a type of supervised visitation. In contrast to traditional supervised visitation, therapeutic visitation is designed to be more structured and intensive, with greater input and intervention from trained professionals. The purpose of this type of visitation is to help build and facilitate a positive relationship between a parent and child who, for many reasons, may not have had one previously.
New York Custody Modifications: Substantial Change in Circumstances
In this case, the New York appeals court denied the father’s attempt to obtain therapeutic visitation rights. The court determined that he failed to prove a substantial change in circumstances that warranted modifying the original custody/visitation order.
As described by Syracuse child custody attorney Richard J. Bombardo, “When warranted by changing circumstances, custody and visitation orders are always subject to modification. That being said, courts are not interested in re-litigating disputes. The parent petitioner for a custody or visitation modification has the burden of proving that something material has changed and that their proposed modification would be in the best interests of the child.”
Ultimately, New York courts will do what is in the best interests of a child’s physical and emotional well-being. A parent’s desire for therapeutic visitation to rebuild a relationship is always a secondary consideration.