Recent Decision: Visitation Rights Ruling Expands Definition of ‘Parent’ in New York

The State Court of Appeals has overturned its 1991 ruling in Matter of Alison D. v. Virginia M. to allow individuals without a biological or adoptive relation to a child to seek custody or visitation rights under New York’s Domestic Relations Law. The ruling in Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. and Matter of Estrellita A. v. Jennifer D. reversed denials by family courts in Chautauqua and Suffolk counties of visitation sought by the former same-sex partners of children’s biological mothers. In both cases the petitioners had not married their partners or legally adopted the children. The City Bar’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Committee and the Council on Children filed amicus briefs in both Brooke and Estrellita, arguing that as law and society have evolved it has become clear that the standard set out in Alison D. violates parents’ and children’s constitutional rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. You can read the decision here.