Can the Family Court Ask the Department of Social Services to Join As Co-Petetioner In a Non-Relative Petitions for Child Custody ?
In Matter of Anonymous v. Olson 112 A.D.2d 299, 491 N.Y.S.2d 745, non-relatives petitioned for the custody of two twin girls, whose mother had been murdered by their father.
The father had been convicted and sentenced to a term of 25 years to life, and there were apparently no relative resources available.
The trial court ordered a child protective investigation and directed that the Department of Social Services be joined as a co-petitioner in the custody proceeding.
After a hearing, the court granted custody of the twins to the Department of Social Services, and directed that the children continue residing in the non-relatives home under the supervision of the Department.
The Appellate Division upheld this determination, finding that "the Family Court clearly acted in the best interests of the children by directing, inter alia, that the commissioner supervise their continued residency with the petitioners." Id. at 300.
The Department of Social Services, on the other hand, has the public funding, personnel, investigatory resources, and legal expertise necessary to act on behalf of the neglected or abandoned child, and has the statutory responsibility to do so.
Where the non-relative custody petitioner is able to make a showing of extraordinary factual circumstances warranting the granting of standing, it has been held to be appropriate for the Family Court to join the Department of Social Services as a co-petitioner in the custody proceeding. Matter of Anonymous v. Olson 112 A.D.2d 299, 491 N.Y.S.2d 745