New York, July 31, 2009 – Dozens of family law professors from every law school in New York today joined a brief filed by the Columbia Law School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic urging the New York Court of Appeals to grant review in a co-parent custody and visitation case.
The issue in the case (Debra H. v. Janice R.) is whether a woman who was parenting a child with her former partner can be denied standing to seek custody and visitation because she is not the child’s biological or adoptive parent.
“It may sound like a simple proposition that family law should protect the relationships of children and the adults who parent them, but New York’s law does not do that,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, Director of the Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic. “New York’s law is out of step with current realities and with the law in many other states. The New York Court of Appeals can correct this problem by granting review in this case and ensuring that the law provides meaningful protection to families in the state.”
The case challenges a much-condemned 1991 ruling by the New York high court (Alison D. v. Virginia M.) in which the court held that a woman was a “legal stranger” to her son, despite having planned the child’s conception with her former partner and having raised him together since birth.
“This case gives New York’s highest court the opportunity to protect parents and children by recognizing the real relationships between children and their non-adoptive, non-biological parents,” said Columbia Law School Professor Ariela Dubler. “If our law fails to recognize these functional relationships, it will remain hopelessly out of touch with the lives of many New York families.”
The law professors signing the brief to support a review teach at every one of New York’s 15 law schools, including Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School, the University at Buffalo Law School of the State University of New York, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the City University of New York School of Law, Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Hofstra University Law School, New York Law School, New York University School of Law, Pace Law School, St. John’s University School of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, and Touro Law Center.
The Court of Appeals is expected to decide whether it will grant review in the Debra H. case in September or October.
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