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In re Rebecca B.

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division
611 N.Y.S.2d 831 (1994)


Facts

When Renee B. (plaintiff) and Michael B. (defendant) divorced in 1986 after five years of marriage, the court awarded Renee sole custody of the couple’s daughter, Rebecca. Michael was granted visitation, including overnight stays. In 1992, Renee petitioned to terminate Michael’s unsupervised visitation rights after learning that Michael and eight-year-old Rebecca were sleeping in the same bed. Michael cross-petitioned, seeking sole custody of Rebecca. Three experts—the Clinical Director of the Family Court Mental Health Service, an additional psychiatrist, and a supervising social worker—recommended that custody be transferred after meeting with Rebecca and the parents. The child’s law guardian also recommended transfer. There was no evidence that the sleeping arrangement between Michael and Rebecca was anything but innocent, and it lasted just one year. A psychiatrist hired by Renee recommended that the mother retain sole custody, but the psychiatrist’s opinion was based solely on interviews with Renee and people referred by her, not including the father or the daughter. Evidence was offered that Rebecca preferred to live with her father, that she had a closer relationship with him, that the mother was a severe disciplinarian who spanked and slapped the girl and locked her in her room, and that Renee was determined to keep Michael out of Rebecca’s life. Without providing explanation, the court found the testimony of the three experts who recommended transfer to be “flawed” and not credible. He denied Michael’s petition and affirmed Renee as Rebecca’s sole custodian. Michael appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Memorandum Decision)

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