Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Thompson

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

March 16, 2017

In the Matter of CHRISTINE THOMPSON, Respondent,
LEA BRAY et al., Respondents. ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD, Appellant. (And Four Other Related Proceedings.)

          Karen Kimball, Wynantskill, attorney for the child, appellant.

          Kathryn Dell, Troy, for Christine Thompson, respondent.

          Before: Peters, P.J., Lynch, Devine, Clark and Aarons, JJ.


          Aarons, J.

         Appeal from an order of the Family Court of Greene County (Wilhelm, J.), entered September 2, 2014, which, among other things, granted petitioner's application, in a proceeding pursuant to Family Ct Act article 6, to modify a prior order of custody.

         Petitioner (hereinafter the mother) and respondent Anthony Bruni are the parents of four children (born in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2009), the youngest of which is the subject of these proceedings. At the time these proceedings were commenced in 2012, the subject child had been living with respondent Lea Bray (hereinafter the aunt), who was the child's guardian. The mother subsequently filed a petition seeking custody of the subject child. Following evidentiary and Lincoln hearings, Family Court rendered a decision and order finding that extraordinary circumstances had not been established and awarded, among other things, legal and physical custody of the subject child to the mother. The attorney for the child now appeals.

         "[A] parent has a claim of custody of his or her child that is superior to that of all others, absent surrender, abandonment, persistent neglect, unfitness, disruption of custody over a prolonged period of time or the existence of extraordinary circumstances" (Matter of Evelyn EE. v Ayesha FF., 143 A.D.3d 1120, 1124 [2016] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted], lv denied ___ N.Y.3d ___ [Feb. 9, 2017]). The nonparent bears the heavy burden of establishing extraordinary circumstances (see Matter of Sweeney v Sweeney, 127 A.D.3d 1259, 1260 [2015]; Matter of Aida B. v Alfredo C., 114 A.D.3d 1046, 1048 [2014]). Whether extraordinary circumstances exist involves the consideration of various factors, including, among others, "the length of time the child has lived with the nonparent, the quality of that relationship and the length of time the biological parent allowed such custody to continue without trying to assume the primary parental role" (Matter of Tennant v Philpot, 77 A.D.3d 1086, 1087 [2010] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; accord Matter of Peters v Dugan, 141 A.D.3d 751, 753 [2016]; Matter of Carpenter v Puglese, 94 A.D.3d 1367, 1368 [2012]). "A finding of extraordinary circumstances is rare, and the circumstances must be such that they drastically affect the welfare of the child" (Matter of Ramos v Ramos, 75 A.D.3d 1008, 1010 [2010] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]).

         The trial testimony indicates that the aunt has attended to the subject child's needs and unquestionably has a strong bond with the subject child. While such bond is not insignificant, "extraordinary circumstances may not be established merely by showing that the child has bonded psychologically with the nonparent" (Matter of Pettaway v Savage, 87 A.D.3d 796, 797 [2011] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted], lv denied 18 N.Y.3d 801 [2011]; see Matter of Burghdurf v Rogers, 233 A.D.2d 713, 715 [1996], lv denied 89 N.Y.2d 810');">89 N.Y.2d 810 [1997]). Although there was a lengthy period during which the mother did not have contact with the subject child, it was partly due to the mother's mistaken impression, which the aunt also shared, that an order of protection prohibiting any communication with the subject child was in effect against her (cf. Matter of Jerry Q. v Malissa R., 287 A.D.2d 810, 811 [2001]). Accordingly, this misunderstanding, as Family Court found, was "through no fault of [the mother]."

         When the mother started having supervised visits with the subject child, she brought food and toys and interacted with the subject child. The mother was subsequently granted unsupervised visits where she brought the subject child to the park and the museum and went swimming with her. Furthermore, the mother took steps to address her mental illness and history of substance abuse. After going through a treatment program, the mother's counselor described the mother as a "new person" and testified that her change was "remarkable." At the time of trial, the mother had been substance abuse free for two years. Moreover, the mother volunteered at a hospital, worked at a restaurant and attended a community college where she studied human services with a specialty in chemical dependency counseling. In view of the foregoing and deferring to Family Court's factual findings and credibility determinations, we find that there is a sound and substantial basis in the record supporting Family Court's determination that extraordinary circumstances did not exist (see Matter of Elizabeth SS. v Gracealee SS., 135 A.D.3d 995, 997 [2016]; Matter of Burton v Barrett, 104 A.D.3d 1084, 1085-1086 [2013]; Matter of Mildred PP. v Samantha QQ., 110 A.D.3d 1160, 1161-1162 [2013]; Matter of Eger v Garafolo, 251 A.D.2d 770, 772-773 [1998]).

         We have examined the attorney for the child's remaining argument and find it to be without merit.

          Peters, P.J., Lynch, Devine and ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.