Pro Bono December 2018

Family Troubles

Curtis represented a domestically abused client referred by Sanctuary for Families seeking skilled appellate counsel. At issue on the appeal (to the First Department) was a procedural error by the trial court amounting to a fundamental violation of due process. The Appellate Division holding not only reversed the error, but also established an invaluable precedent for future cases in which a parent’s abusive conduct is asserted as grounds for modifying previously agreed rights of custody and visitation.

Curtis has been representing a victim of domestic violence in an appeal against the denial of her Petition for Modification of an Order of Custody and Visitation (Modification Petition). When filing a Modification Petition, a party must show a change of circumstances from the time the custody and visitation order was entered. Here, Petitioner alleged that there was a change of circumstances in part because the father physically abused his stepson in front of his biological son and the biological son is now afraid of his father and no longer wants to visit with him. Following the parties’ appearance in Family Court, the judge dismissed the Modification Petition without holding an evidentiary hearing.

Curtis lawyers are appealing this dismissal, arguing that Petitioner should be afforded an opportunity to be heard at an evidentiary hearing before the Family Court reaches a decision on the Modification Petition.