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Matter of Crystal S. (Elaine S) – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Matter of Crystal S. (Elaine S), 74 AD3d 823, 902 NYS2d 623 (2010), the Family Court made a finding of neglect against a respondent mother.

The subject child and the mother's boyfriend had engaged in a physical altercation and the mother had intervened.

In so doing she came between her boyfriend and the child and held the child's arms to prevent her from reaching for a knife, which the mother admitted might have caused swelling and a scratch on the child's arm.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Family Court found that the child was "out of control" and "consistently disobeyed the rules of the home set down by the mother" (id. at 824).

Nevertheless, based upon the mother's admission that she held the child "very hard," resulting in an injury to the child's arm, the Family Court found that the mother failed to provide adequate care and guardianship and that she had neglected her daughter (id.).

The Family Court suspended judgment for 12 months and directed the mother to cooperate with monthly NYCCS supervision and to participate in family therapy with the child. At the end of the 12-month period the court dismissed the neglect petition against the mother with prejudice.

The Appellate Division, Second Department reversed and vacated the finding of neglect.

The Court found that the mother's use of physical force had been justified to stop the child from escalating the altercation and grabbing a knife.

In reaching that determination the Appellate Division rejected the assertion that the appeal had been rendered moot since the petition had been dismissed.

The Court noted that although the Family Court dismissed the petition at the end of the suspended judgment period, the finding of neglect remained since the order of dismissal failed to explicitly vacate it.