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The Proposed Kyra's Law

The New York Legislature is seeking to create Family Court Act § 654 which has come to be known as Kyra’s Law (Senate bill S7425A; Assembly bill A5398A). This bill, if passed, would also amend the Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”), including, but not limited to § 70 of the DRL. It appears that the new law would not necessarily require a family offense petition to be filed, however where there are allegations of child abuse or domestic violence in custody or visitation petitions, the court, possibly sua sponte, could enter a “Temporary Emergency Order” on the child’s behalf pursuant to the amended sections of the DRL or FCA §654. The bill provides for a temporary emergency order in custody or visitation matters where it alleged that the other party “has committed, threatened to commit or is likely to commit” an act of child abuse or domestic violence. Although no specific details have been provided to date, it is assumed the temporary emergency order would function similar to an order of protection. The court shall conduct an “assessment of the best interests of the child”, which factors include, but are not limited to: allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, child sexual abuse or incidents involving harm or risk of harm to the child, prior reports of violence, access to firearms, valid or prior orders of protection, threats to harm or kill self or others, etc. Other elements for an assessment are to be developed by the Office of Domestic Violence and shall include “a party’s concern about future assaults from the other party.” Moreover, the bill provides that a final order of sole or joint custody shall not be provided under the temporary emergency order and the temporary emergency order shall terminate under a final order of the court.

The bill would further require that if a party is found to be the offending party, then they shall be responsible for any attorney fees and expert fees (including forensics). The opportunity to file an appeal with the Appellate Division is limited to five (5) days from the receipt of the order. Buried further down in the bill, and equally as important, would include an amendment to DRL § 240-e which provides a definition of Parental Alienation as claims that a child has become estranged from a parent or legal guardian as a result of psychological manipulation by the other parent or legal guardian. Although this falls far short of defining or codifying Parental Alienation Syndrome, it is a major step forward for the New York legislature.

One thing can be assured, with passage in the New York legislature, it is very possible this may be the law of the land shortly, which will drastically alter the landscape and litigation of custody and visitation matters.