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New York says no to visitation if parental rights terminated

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 contact requests.

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