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The Appellate Division First Department issued a decision on whether a half-sister has a greater “kinship tie” with a younger sibling in a custody decision.  The case began when an adult half-sister of a child petitioned for custody of her younger sibling.  The half-sister, who was not named by the court, petitioned for custody of her minor sibling after the sibling had been freed for adoption. While the sibling was placed in foster care, the half-sister petitioned for custody of the child.  The Bronx County Family Court dismissed the petition and the sister appealed to the Appellate Division First Department.

The panel of First Department justices agreed with the Bronx County Family Court’s decision to dismiss the petition.  The decision issued by the panel began by explaining that adopting the child, and not petitioning for custody would have been the proper recourse for gaining custody of the sibling.  Instead, the half-sister brought about a petition which sought a best interest’s hearing to determine whether the sibling was better suited with the half-sister than in foster care.  The Court continued by recognizing that even had the Court considered the best interests of the child, it would not have changed the outcome.  They recognized that even though the half-sister has a kinship tie with the child, prior case law provides that the kinship tie does not give her greater standing than the child’s foster parents.  Additionally, the evidence in the record showed that the child, who has special needs, was well loved and well cared for in the foster home.  There record actually reflected that the sibling may be adversely affected by removal from the foster home as it was the only home in which he had been a part of.

The case discussed brings about the important question of: “what is the difference between adoption and custody?”  While the two have many similarities, there are many legal implications of having one over the other. The primary difference is the permanency of the process. Custody is when a person or entity is responsible for the care and well-being of a child and has the legal authority to consent on behalf of the child, but the child’s parents maintain their parental rights.  Adoption is when an adult becomes the permanent, legal parent of a child. This requires the relinquishment, termination of parental rights, or consent to adoption by a birth parent.

As detailed in the case above, proceeding with the right process can be the difference in being successful in obtaining custody rights to a minor.  If you are seeking to obtain the custody rights of a child, you should seek an attorney experienced in child custody proceedings. The lawyers at Larry McCord & Associates, LLC have experience representing individuals in all aspects of matrimonial and family law litigation. Please contact Larry McCord and Associates, LLC at (631) 643-3084 to learn more about the firm’s services and approach to child support disputes.

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