There is No Greater Bond than that of Siblings
There is nothing else like a sibling bond. Full-blood siblings as well as half-blood siblings all have a statutory right to visitation when they have been separated and contact between them has been limited. Many Courts see sibling contact as almost “a right” of a child even where the custodial adults do not get along with each other. It is always best if everyone involved can agree upon a visitation agreement. But if that cannot be accomplished, New York State Domestic Relations Law §71 provides a way for siblings to ask the Court to deem visitation mandatory.
Many are unaware that the Family Court has the jurisdiction to be able to determine visitation between siblings. Obviously, if the attorneys can negotiate visitation agreements, this would be a better option but if not, the court can ultimately decide. Some instances that this has been shown to be successful are with half siblings living with their respective parents, older siblings outside of the home being denied visitation with younger siblings still in the home and also for children that have been separated in foster care.
New York State Domestic Relations Law §71 states that “Where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene, a brother or sister or, if he or she be a minor, a proper person on his or her behalf of a child, whether by half or whole blood, may apply to the supreme court by commencing a special proceeding or for a writ of habeas corpus to have such child…” N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 71. This statute’s language is very similar to DRL §72 which governs grandparents visitation. Consequently, the court must first find standing on equitable circumstances. E.S. v. P.D., 863 N.E.2d 100 (N.Y. 2007). Previously, courts have found standing for full and half-siblings, but not for children from previous marriages with no blood relation. See: Noonan v. Noonan, 547 N.Y.S.2d 525 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1989); Matter of Alexandra D. v. Santos, 949 N.Y.S.2d 101 (N.Y. App. Div. 2012).
Next, the court must determine if visitation between the siblings is in the best interest of the children. Courts will look at a variety of different things to evaluate visitation but most importantly they will look at the prior relationship of the children. If it is shown that there is no prior relationship, the courts are likely to advise against visitation. In re Justin H., 626 N.Y.S.2d 479 (N.Y. App. Div. 1995). Additionally, they will look at the reasoning as to why the visitation was stopped, the reasons given and basis for the persons denial of visitation at the present time, views of the children’s attorneys, future benefits, and the children’s opinions. Isabel R. v. Meghan Mc, 23 Misc. 3d 1102(A).
According to New York State Domestic Relations Law § 71, these petitions can be applied “to the supreme court by commencing a special proceeding or for a write of habeas corpus to have such child brought before the court,” or may apply to the family court pursuant to The Family Court Act § 651.
With that being said, the Courts agree with you that there is nothing else like a sibling bond, it’s worth fighting for, and there are people who are willing to help you.