Among the many factors that a court may consider in determining the custody of a child, one stands out as particularly potent and pervasive: the willingness or, more to the point, the unwillingness of a parent to foster and promote the relationship between the child and the other parent. Tippins, T.M., “Child Custody Factors: Relationship with Both Parents Gains in Importance,” N.Y.L.J., Jan. 4, 2013. The force of this factor is evident in the vigor of the judicial language employed to describe it. Decisional law is replete with condemnation of interference with the relationship between a child and the other parent, deeming it “an act so inconsistent with the best interests of the child as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as custodial parent.” Goodman v. Jones, 146 A.D.3d 884 (2d Dept. 2017). Given the per se impact of this factor, it is not surprising to see decisions year after year wherein it overwhelms an array of other factors, such as primary parent, availability, promotion of intellectual development, etc. The “willingness to foster” factor also impacts the court’s consideration of the child’s preference. Where a court determines that a child has been unduly influenced by a parent, the expressed custodial preference of the child is given little weight in the court’s decision-making matrix. Sloma v. Sloma, 148 A.D.3d 1679 (4th Dept. 2017); Manell v. Manell, 146 A.D.3d 1107 (3d Dept. 2017). Nor are procedural issues beyond its reach. A developing body of case law holds that the dynamic of parental influence/alienation also impacts the role of the attorney for the child (hereinafter AFC). This article will explore these decisions.
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