New York Court of Appeals held that after a parent’s rights have been terminated in a contested proceeding, judges do not have the authority to order visitation with children, as reported by the June 8, 2012 issue of the New York Law Journal.

This view was previously held by the First and Third Departments and now is followed by all four departments.

Decided after the appeal of Matter of Hailey ZZ,103, the Third Department ruled that visitation “was properly denied as unavailable in a contested termination proceeding.” Hailey’s father, Ricky, had been sentenced to 15 year in prison after being convicted of burglary and grand larceny. Hailey had been living in a foster home, since November 2008, with monthly visitation allowed between Hailey and Ricky. In March 2010, the social services department sought to terminate the parental rights of Ricky, however Ricky contested it. The Court ruled that because Ricky had failed to plan for Hailey’s future and because the relatives he wanted Hailey to stay with until his release from prison were unsuitable, the social services department was correct in asking to terminate the rights of Ricky. The court also found that the department had only asked the court for a termination of Ricky’s rights after making necessary efforts in fortifying the father-daughter bond.

The Court of Appeals stated that there is no longer any legal basis for the courts to order visitation to Ricky, because he had been stripped of his parental rights. Judge Susan Phillips Read, in writing for the majority, analyzed Social Services Law §384-b and stated that this statute does not allow a court order contact with a child after the parental rights have been terminated.

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