In December of 1996, a wedding was held in Kings County New York. Like most young couples, they were full of excitement. The new wife came to this marriage with one ten-month-old toddler from a prior marriage. They moved into her parent’s house a few months after they met and stayed thereafter they married.
The wife stated that the abuse began immediately with the husband having verbal temper tantrums calling her names in front of the children. After a while, she stated that she began to feel worthless as the domestic abuse began to escalate. At this time, the husband was employed as a New York State Park Control Officer which is a sworn law enforcement officer in the state of New York. The wife was hesitant to report the abuse because the husband was quick to remind her that a police officer charged with domestic abuse can never again work in law enforcement. He told her that he would lose his job and all the benefits that go with it including the children’s health insurance. It was enough to keep her scared and quiet for a while.
However, when he got angry one night and ordered the wife and her son from the house, he grabbed his son by the shirt and put his service weapon to the child’s head. He told the wife that he was going to kill them all. She left, leaving the small child with her husband, but her fear for the child could not keep her away. She filed a report and returned the house where the child was safe. The wife’s son stated that according to his recollection of the incident, the father had grabbed the child by his hair and held the child with the gun to his head. This incident occurred in 1999. The father did not testify about this particular incident except to say that he graduated from the police academy on December 12, 1994 and kept his service weapon in a lockbox unloaded in the house. However, he had previously testified that the gun was only in the house when he broke it down to clean it, so his testimony about the weapon is unclear.
The wife and her son testified that many incidents of abuse happened during the time that the father was a police officer that went unreported due to the wife not wanting to cause the husband to lose his career. Her son testified that he witnessed the husband punch his mother in the face and ribs several times. The wife testified that the husband became enraged about training the family dog and held his gun to the dog’s head in front of the children. However, it was not until a particular incident that she advised she was scared enough to file a report again. She stated that during an argument the husband began to shove her and then pushed her on to the bed. He jumped on top of her and began to strangle her. The wife stated that she remembered thinking as she looked up at the ceiling in her bedroom and he strangled the life from her body that she was going to die that day. She passed out of consciousness. When she came to, the husband was gone. She called the police and this time she had him arrested. However, the wife stated that she told the District Attorney that she had lied because she was afraid that the husband would lose his job and the children would lose their health insurance if she pressed forward with the charges. However, the abuse did not stop.
Her son testified that in 2003 the husband attacked the wife and her son because the husband’s father was arguing with the wife about a discipline issue with the husband’s son. The wife was using a time out to discipline the child because he had hit the neighbor’s daughter. The paternal grandfather had called her names and told her that she shouldn’t have the boy in the room. The paternal grandfather had shoved the wife at that point. Her son stepped in and told the paternal grandfather that he was tired of him and the husband constantly abusing his mother. The paternal grandfather attacked and punched her son who tried to swing back. The father came in and jumped on her son, straddled him on the floor and repeatedly punched him about the face and body. The wife stated that during the assault on her son, she urinated on herself in fear. She left the residence and called the police. She stated that she felt afraid, hopeless, and empty. The wife stated that the incident impacted the children in that they began to cry a lot and became more aggressive towards each other. The wife took the children and moved in with her mother.
In October of 2003 the Family Court of the State of New York awarded joint custody of the children with primary physical custody of the children with the mother. By this time, the husband worked driving a city bus and the wife was working as an emergency medical technician on an ambulance service. While she was working, the maternal grandmother or the paternal grandmother would watch over the children.
In October of 2005, the husband filed a petition to modify the custody of the children. The hearing was set for October 21st. A few days before the hearing, the wife stated that the husband was driving the car when he pulled over and grabbed his son by the neck. He stated that if she showed up at the hearing on October 21st that he would kill them all. The wife testified that the child was crying and asking him, “why are you doing this to me, daddy, what are you doing?” She stated that she did not show up at the hearing. At the hearing, a judge awarded sole custody to the husband based on her absence at court.
Since the husband has had custody of the children, his violence toward them has increased. There have been numerous occasions where she or the maternal grandmother has seen bruises on the children. The son from the marriage has texted the wife on occasions telling her that he is not allowed to go see her until his bruises have healed. She was advised by the children that he sometimes punishes them by making him ride on the city bus that he drives with him until one o’clock in the morning without food or the opportunity to use the bathroom. There were situations where the paternal grandfather punched his grandson on the upper leg as a punishment. The wife called child services and they investigated the incident. After that, the grandfather chastised the child by calling him names for telling his mother what had happened. The wife stated that the children have repeatedly told her of abuse suffered at the hands of the paternal grandfather when he gets into a rage. The Family Court in 2008 issued an order forbidding the paternal grandfather from using corporal punishment on the children. In spite of that fact, additional incidents occurred. When questioned about why he continued to allow his father to use corporal punishment on the children, the husband, an ex-law enforcement officer stated that he did not know that corporal meant physical such as spankings. The ex-wife now seeks to regain custody of the children.
The court states that in order to modify the arrangements in regards to the husband having full custody, the court must find that there has been a “change of circumstances such that modification is required to protect the best interests of the child.” Zeis v. Slater, 57 AD3d 793, 870 NYS2d 387
In this case, the court finds that there have been enough sufficient changes in circumstances, since October 22, 2008, to warrant attention to the subject. The court finds that the children want to live with their mother, the mother has now found a new residence and has improved her work schedule to that she has increased her availability to her children. The court also finds that the children have been experiencing escalating levels of violence in the home. In 2009, the court amended the Domestic Violence statute to state that if the state finds facts and circumstances that demonstrate domestic violence in the home and with consideration to the effect that these actions have on the children. The court stated that in spite of the fact that this family had an extensive history with the New York court system this trial was “the first opportunity for a court to actually hear the testimony at trial and in detail learn the history of violence and abusive behavior the wife and children were subjected to during the marriage.”
The court allows the husband in this case, who does have a positive involvement in his children’s lives. He is active in their extracurricular activities, yet the court finds that the level of violence and abuse used by the father in his actions with his children override the positive. It is clear to the court that the physical nature of the husband’s interactions with the children has now led to an increase in physical violence between his children themselves. The husband simply puts too much importance on physical intervention and threats when dealing with his children. He has not provided for the children’s emotional development, in fact, he has been destructive toward it with ongoing incidents of domestic violence. The court finds that from observing the husband’s actions that he “believes that his custodial authority extends to eliminating the mother from the children’s lives.” The court noted that whenever the husband speaks or testifies, the mother does not look directly at him, but down or to the side and that her descriptions of abuse and violence that she endured has caused the court to pause in concern for her well-being. The court modifies the order to award custody to the wife. The husband will have visitation that is detailed in the documents.
Issues of law are constantly changing. A person who is not specifically trained in the law cannot begin to know what all of their rights are without the assistance of a professional. Here at Steven Bilkis and Associates, we provide New York Order of Protection Attorneys, New York Domestic Violence Lawyers, New York Assault Attorneys, and New York Criminal lawyers. New York Family Lawyers will stand by you and ensure that your rights are protected. New York Personal Injury Attorneys can argue your side and make sure that you and your loved ones are considered. We make sure that you are rightfully awarded compensation for your suffering.
Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its Domestic Violence Lawyers has convenient offices throughout the New York Metropolitan area including Corona, New York. Our Personal Injury Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a Domestic Violence Lawyer, you could lose precious compensation to help with your medical bills and the trauma to you and your loved ones following such a frightening experience. This is true even if the Attorney for the assailant has not adequately made their case. In addition to Personal Injury Law, Stephen Bilkis and Associates can recommend Criminal Lawyers who will protect your rights if you are ever arrested.