I have previously written that with respect to the issues of custody and visitation, children, especially older children, may have some input into the court’s decision. Sometimes, that input may cause the court to terminate visitation altogether. In a recent decision, the Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed orders awarding visitation to the mother where the family court’s in camera interviews with the then-16-year-old children confirmed that they were vehemently opposed to any form of visitation with the mother. Sassower-Berlin v. Berlin, 2009 NY Slip Op 00217 (2nd Dept. 2009). The court restated the familiar principal that “[a]s a general rule, some form of visitation by the noncustodial parent is always appropriate, absent exceptional circumstances, such as those in which it would be inimical to the welfare of the child or where a parent in some manner has forfeited his or her right to such access”. Because the record contained substantial evidence that visitation as awarded by the Family Court would be detrimental to the welfare of the subject children, the Appellate Division held that any attempts to further a relationship with the mother at this point would cause the children undue emotional distress.
While Sassower-Berlin is clearly an exception rather than the rule, it reinforces the fact that older children may have significant input into custodial and visitation arrangements.