A recent ruling by New York's highest court ends years of dueling legal
precedents concerning visitation rights for parents who no longer have
legal custody or any parental rights in regard to their children. In its
decision, the New York Court of Appeals determined that family courts
do not have authority to grant
visitation rights to parents whose parental rights have been legitimately terminated. Parents
that lose parental rights to their children will no longer be able to
count on the courts to later grant them visitation.
The case was brought to the court by a father who was sent to prison in
2008. While he was imprisoned, his then-infant daughter was removed from
her mother's home and placed in foster care. Later, in 2010, the mother
relinquished her parental rights and the county then sought to end the
father's rights as well.
Over the course of those proceedings, including appeals, the court ruled
that the government had acted appropriately in ending the man's parental
rights and also rejected the father's request that he still be allowed
visitation. The lower courts said that they did not have the authority
to grant visitation under existing law.
Now that the New York Court of Appeals has affirmed the lower courts'
decisions, all courts will have to abide by that precedent throughout
the state. In addition to ending this man's chance at sanctioned visitation
with his daughter, the ruling also has the effect of ending hearings that
one judicial district had held since 2006 to reconsider post-termination
Not everyone is happy with the ruling. One Court of Appeals judge wrote
in dissent that the decision effectively bars family courts from making
decisions in the best interests of children, which he says is supposed
to be the court's primary mandate.
Source: Reuters, "Courts cannot grant visitation rights after parental rights end: NY Appeals Court," Dan Weissner, June 7, 2012