Despite Allegations of Domestic Violence, Sole Custody Awarded to Father
The court decides matters of custody based on what will be in the child’s best interest. In Jarvis v. Lashley, 169 AD3d 1043 [2d Dept 2019], two unmarried people had a child. The relationship ended and the mother moved out of state with the child for three months. The mother then left the state for three months. During this time, she did not actively try to foster a relationship between child and father. Then the father filed for sole custody of the child and then the mother did the same.
The mother claimed the father had been abusive toward her during the time the parties were living together. However the mother did not seek medical or police intervention for the alleged domestic violence. The mother further stated the father stopped his violence toward her after they separated. With this lack of evidence, the courts had to determine themselves if the allegations were credible and then consider the effects on the best interest of the child.
The courts determined the father should be awarded full custody and the mother parenting time. They came to this conclusion by deciding the father would be more likely to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parents (the mother) than the mother would be likely to foster a relationship between father and child, if she had custody.
The mother appealed this decision, but the Appellate Division determined the original decision was the correct one, affirming the father’s sole custody of child. Just allegations of domestic violence without further proof of abuse are not enough. Additionally, despite any personal issues in the relationship between parents, the custodial parent is obligated to encourage the relationship between the other parent and the child. This can be hard for the custodial parent to do, especially if they are the victim of abuse; however the court still deems a relationship with both parents to be in the child’s best interest.