The Family Court’s determination to grant the father’s petition to modify a prior order so as to award him sole legal and residential custody of the child has a sound and substantial basis in the record, including evidence that the mother subjected the child to inadequate home-schooling, excessive corporal punishment, isolation, and emotional neglect, as well as the child’s wishes, and the breakdown in the parties’ ability to co-parent (see Matter of Murphy v. Lewis, 149 AD3d 748; Matter of Goodman v. Jones, 146 AD3d 884, 886; Matter of McPherson v. McPherson, 139 AD3d 953, 953).
After two court-ordered “observation and evaluation” virtual visits between the mother and the child, which were supervised by two licensed social workers, and upon supplemental findings, the court awarded the mother parental access only to the extent of allowing the mother to communicate with the child through written letters either by regular mail or electronically, and by speaking with the child weekly by telephone or by Skype, Zoom, or other electronic video platform for up to one hour, provided that the child consents. The mother appealed.
A sound and substantial basis exists in the record to limit her parental access with the child to letters, and weekly one-hour telephone or video sessions as consented to by the child. “The testimony of the father and the child’s therapist as to the child’s fear and anxiety surrounding parental access, the social workers’ observation of physical symptoms of that fear and anxiety in the child, and the therapist’s testimony that visitation between the mother and the child would be ‘very damaging’ to the child, all support limiting parental access to letters, and to weekly one-hour telephone or video sessions as consented to by the child (see Matter of Anise C. [Angelica C.], 145 AD3d 882; Matter of Waldman v. Waldman, 47 AD3d 637).”
The Second Department found that the Family Court’s determination to modify the parties’ Judgment of Divorce to award the father sole decision-making authority with regard to the children’s medical care is supported by a sound and substantial basis in the record. “The uncontroverted evidence that the mother had refused to consent to the children receiving vaccinations recommended by the pediatricians named in the custody stipulation, leading to the youngest child being prohibited from attending school, constituted ‘a sufficient change in circumstances such that modification [was] necessary to ensure the best interests and welfare of the child’” (Matter of Burke v. Squires, __ AD3d at __, 2022 NY Slip Op 00861, *2). Considering the totality of the circumstances, awarding the father sole decision-making authority with regard to the children’s medical care was in the children’s best interests (see __ AD3d at __, 2022 NY Slip Op 00861, *2, Matter of Ednie v. Haniquet, 185 AD3d 1029, 1030).