Perhaps one of the single most important aspects of a healthy childhood is emotional support from healthy caregivers. As it stands, New York’s visitation law prohibits third-party caregivers from stepping in and providing children with this important psychological and emotional need by automatically denying them standing to seek visitation in court. In New York, third-party standing for visitation is denied solely on a procedural basis, irrespective of the child’s personal familial situation, namely whether their parents are completely

unavailable. Specifically, when a child’s parents become unavailable due to death, incarceration or otherwise, and such child becomes a ward of the foster care system, the child’s aunt, uncle, or other third-party caregiver cannot petition for visitation of that child under current New York law. As a result, the child is effectively deprived of necessary emotional connections unless the third-party caregiver decides to formally adopt him or her. New York’s Domestic Relations Law does not explicitly prohibit third-party visitation, but rather this current, nonsensical application of New York visitation law has developed through the judiciary, which is supposed to serve as these children’s last line of defense. Thus, this piece respectfully calls for the court of this progressive State to join other neighboring states in fostering relationships between children and healthy caregivers by awarding standing for visitation to third-parties when both of the child’s parents are completely unavailable to take care of them.

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