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New York Court Decides Child Custody Dispute
Between Israeli Citizens

Certified Legal Translator and Legal Interpreter Services for Child Custody Cases

Certified translation services for child custody cases are often required these days. Custody cases in which parents of an American-born child reside in separate countries are not only heart-wrenching, but they are becoming more and more common. They are typically fact intensive and require a thorough analysis by the court in order to balance parental rights with the best interests of the child. In the case discussed below, the parties entered into a unique parenting agreement before conceiving a child. Nevertheless, a child custody dispute arose when the parents separated and the mother desired to return to her homeland.

In Eldad v. Dannai, the parties were Israeli citizens who met in Israel. The parties were introduced to one another for the purpose of conceiving and raising a child together. After they were introduced, the parties conceived a child pursuant to an oral agreement that was made while the father was living in the United States and the mother was living in Israel.

The parties reduced their agreement to writing after the mother became pregnant. The agreement provided that the mother would relocate to the United States prior to the child’s birth and stated that the father would take care of all of the mother’s expenses if the mother was not working. The agreement also provided that the parties were planning to marry in a civil ceremony, but the marriage never took place. The agreement also provided several detailed custody arrangements depending on whether the parties lived together or separately. The parties further agreed that in the event of a dispute, an Israeli family court would have sole jurisdiction to resolve the matter.

When the mother was four months pregnant, she moved to the United States with the intention of settling in Reno, Nevada, where the father worked as a cardiologist. The mother expected that she and the father would marry and that she would then become a legal resident of the United States. However, the father lost his job in Reno and the parties subsequently moved to the City of Binghamton, Nevada, where the child was born in 2014. The father subsequently decided that he did not want to marry the mother. The parties separated.

Upon their separation, the father purchased a home for the mother and child along with a car for the mother to drive. He also paid for the mother’s tuition at a community college and gave her $1,500 per month for expenses. While the mother took classes at a community college, the child was cared for by a nanny.

In 2015, the father petitioned for custody in family court in New York. The court granted primary physical and legal custody to the mother and allowed parenting time to the mother. The court prohibited the child from being removed from the United States absent written consent from both parties.

The mother appealed the court’s order regarding custody. The mother argued that the agreement’s forum selection clause, which provided that Israel would have sole jurisdiction over any dispute, divested the New York family court of jurisdiction. The appellate court disagreed, finding that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides that a New York court has jurisdiction over a child custody case if New York is the home state of the child on the date of, or within 6 months of, the proceeding. In this case, New York was the child’s home state. The court also held that although the court could have determined that New York was an inconvenient forum pursuant to its discretionary authority, that New York was not, in fact, an inconvenient forum for the parties.

The court next determined that it was in the child’s best interest to remain in the United States instead of returning to Israel with the mother. The court reasoned that the father owned a home, was gainfully employed, and could care for the child with the assistance of nannies and caregivers despite his demanding cardiology practice. Although the mother demonstrated a desire to provide a stable environment for the child, the court found that she did not establish a viable means or plan for doing so. Thus, the court upheld the family court’s order granting physical custody of the child to the father.

The court did hold, however, that the family court erred in awarding the father sole legal custody. The court found that granting sole legal custody to the father effectively deprived the mother of the ability to file a petition under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Although the court did not find there to be any specific issue pending which would implicate the Hague Convention, the court wanted to avoid any potential issues regarding relocation given the father’s dual citizenship in Israel and the United States. Consequently, the appellate court granted joint legal custody to both the mother and father.

The case is In the Matter of Eldad LL. V. Dannai MM, 2017b NY Slip Op 078221, decided by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York on November 22, 2017.

* This legal language translation blog article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal situation.*

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