Sunday, November 15, 2020

The New York Court of Appeals and the Family: Conflicts Between the Best Interest of the Child and Parental Autonomy

By Addie P. Lancaster
Addie Lancaster is a third-year student at Albany Law School. She received a bachelor’s degree in 2018 from the University of Georgia, where she studied Psychology, Human Development, and Family Science. Through her undergraduate involvements, she gained a passion for the family system, both socially and legally. These experiences strengthened her desire to practice family law after graduation.  
While in law school, Addie has held many internship positions, including for the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office, the Justice Center’s Family Violence Litigation Clinic, and the New York Office of Children and Family Services.  
Addie has also participated in multiple Moot Court competitions, including the Domenick L. Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Competition, the Donna Jo Morse Negotiation Competition, and the Donna Jo Morse Client Counseling Competition, where she was a semi-finalist.  

Throughout the practice area of family law, two concepts remain at the forefront of many cases: the best interest of the child and parental autonomy in family decisions. When deciding what is in the best interest of the child, the court can consider many factors, including abuse, neglect, and the relationship with parents or caregivers, to name a few. There is no uniform way to decide what is in a child’s best interest, so decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Weighing heavy in this determination is the parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children, with the assumption that they make decisions in the best interest of their child. 

This paper discusses two cases, In re Hofbauer and In re Adoption of L. Both cases involve the intersection of the best interest of the child with the parent’s right to direct the upbringing of their children. By examining these cases, it becomes possible to understand how the Court of Appeals resolves these competing interests, and to recognize how it views the parent-child relationship.
To read the paper, open HERE.