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New York Court Decides Grandparent Visitation Rights in Light of Child Abuse Allegations


In November of 1996, a father of a little girl was arrested and taken in to custody. The facts of this case once known exposed a level of domestic violence that was abhorrent. The man was arrested for assaulting the mother of his child. While they were married at the time of the abuse, the mother has since divorced him. He is serving ten years in Elmira Prison for the assaults on his family.

While they were married, the man repeatedly beat his wife causing her to at one time or another have her nose broken twice, her ankle broken, and two of her ribs broken. Her head had visible bald areas where he would pull her hair out. Additionally, he would keep her handcuffed in the floor of the bathroom all day. She was only released to take their child to the school bus, or to eat with her captor. She was once released to attend his father’s wake. When she arrived with two black eyes, missing hair and bruises on her face, her mother-in-law told her to put on a hat and sunglasses so that no one would ask any questions. She stated that on the day of the arrest, she was in the car with her husband and his mother, he had become angry with her and punched her in the face causing her blood to “splatter” the inside of the car. He was agitated and threatened to kill her and her father. When he stopped to get gas, she jumped from the car and ran screaming for help. The police arrived and he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison. His mother now claims a right to see the grandchild.

The victim in this case denies the grandmother the privilege to see the child. She states that the grandmother’s presence in the child’s life would be disruptive. The child, who was a witness to the ongoing torture of her mother at the hands of her father, is in therapy. The grandmother, who was aware of the ongoing abuse and failed to help either the child or the mother, believes that she is being denied a right as a grandmother to have a relationship with the child.

In response, the victim, who is the child’s mother, pointed out that this grandmother was fully aware of the abuse that was going on in the home. She was so familiar with the abuse that she purposely instructed the victim to hide the damage to her person caused by this woman’s son. The victim advised that when the family had been living with the grandmother, she had witnessed the assaults and had failed at any time to come to the victim’s aide or to assist the child. In fact, at one point, the grandfather threw the family out of the house. Having nowhere to go, they used credit cards to stay at a motel. It was at the motel that the father handcuffed the mother to the pipes in the bathroom all day. At no point, did this grandmother attempt to help her daughter-in-law, or her grandchild. In fact, after her son was charged in relation to these incidents, she requested money from associates to help her son fight the victim’s action to obtain child support. At no time while the family was in the motel, did the grandmother make any attempt to contact the child or to help the mother and child in any manner.

The Court in its assessment of the credibility of the grandmother looked at several applicable laws. First, there is no common law right in New York Family Court that provides for a grandparent to have visitation with a grandchild. The closest law is under the Domestic Relations Law Section 72 which provides that “where either or both of the parents of a minor child, residing within this state, is or are deceased, or where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene. . .” It is noted in this case that both parents are living; even though one is serving ten years in Elmira prison. The mother has custody of the child and has not in any way demonstrated that she is not fit to care for the girl. The mother has stated that it is not in the best interests of the child for her to have visitation with her father’s mother. This is evidenced by the child’s demeanor upon leaving such visits where she is withdrawn, silent, and clingy.

In examining the relevant facts, the Court finds that the grandmother did not demonstrate a sufficient relationship with the child. She did not even show that an appropriate effort had been made to establish a relationship with the child. The second is that the grandmother knew about the severity of the domestic violence in this case which was described by the Justices as “shocking and brutal” and failed to take any action to assist the mother or the child.

The Justices further stated that beyond all of the reasons discussed, the fact that the grandmother had knowledge of the horrendous domestic violence that was going on in the presence of the child; and because she made no attempts to protect this child that she should be denied visitation on that basis alone.

The grandmother’s counsel argued that it would be in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with her grandmother. The Court conducted a hearing on March 4, 1998, March 20, 1998 and April 7, 1998. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court denied the grandmother access to the child. The Court cited two grounds for their decision. First that the Court had found that the grandmother had not demonstrated a sufficient relationship with the child prior to this hearing and that at this juncture the court did not see any benefit of changing that. The second reason was the seriousness of the domestic violence perpetrated by the grandmother’s son against his family and in the presence of the grandmother. Citing that the grandmother had done nothing to aid the victim and child showed in the court’s opinion “gross insensitivity.”

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.

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