Topsham, ME asked in Family Law for New York

Q: Sole custody and finding by the Office of Children and Family Services

If 1 parent has sole legal custody but the parents were living together and the Office of Children and Family Services was called into investigate inadequate guardianship, food, clothing and shelter can the non-custodial parent be held accountable while custodial parent is not? Why would both parents not be held responsible specifically why would the custodial parent not be found derelict in their responsibilities?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Lawrence Allen Weinreich
Lawrence Allen Weinreich
  • Garden City, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Yes you can. You are a parent and if the other parent is not doing the right thing you have an obligation to the children to protect them.

Peter Christopher Lomtevas
Peter Christopher Lomtevas pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Schenectady, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: We do not understand how there can be an order of custody between parents residing together. Nonetheless, assuming this is true, that a couple resides together with an order of custody and visitation between them, we will take a stab at answering this question.

There are very many moving parts to a Pennsylvania dependency proceeding. An accuser can be the custodial parent wanting to excise the non-custodial from the child's life. There are mandated reporters of abuse who will rat out innocent parents because the reporters do not know any better. There are physicians, neighbors, and cops who can make a report and bring down the gestapo on a parent.

As or this asker's question, certainly the CYS can separate and segregate one parent from another as that happens across the state every day. A dependency judge who runs the case can enter orders holding a non-custodial parent blameworthy for abuse or neglect and hold the other parent totally innocent of anything.

Another factor that can come into play is whether the winning side is moneyed. Money buys justice in Pennsylvania as the wealthier parent can call in psychologists to entertain the judge with assessments against the non-custodial parent who may be unable to afford a rebuttal psychologist.

Another factor could be the judge has an interest in the case and is deciding for the winning side based on that dynamic. We do not have any details that we can explore, but no judge is immune from the influence of money whether it comes from the federal government to the state to defray the costs of a dependency proceeding, or an election donation, or some other payment whether above or under the table.

Perhaps the best answer to this question is found once the asker realizes the judge runs the dependency case, and no one else. The CYS derives all of its power from the judge, and superior court always backs the judge. The superior court wants to stamp out child abuse in Pennsylvania, so all orders coming from a dependency court are always affirmed. Federal money pays for these cases in part with money sent to Harrisburg. CYS owns the outcome.

Every federal dollar helps, and protecting children is the Trojan horse within which the whole system operates against the parent.

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