Ahmad v. Naviwala

The court granted the Mother custody of four children after the Father sought to remove the Mother from the children’s lives.

Ahmad v. Naviwala, 306 A.D.2d 588; 762 N.Y.S.2d 125 (2003)Court: Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, 3rd Department

The court found custody with the Mother to be in the best interests of four children after the Father sought to remove the Mother from the children’s lives.   The court looked to the Father’s “willful interference with a noncustodial parent’s rights to visitation” as a basis for transferring the custody rights from the Father to the Mother.

Husband and Wife were married in New York.  The parties have four children, one son 9 years, and three daughters, 11, 14, 15 years old (age in 2003).   The Mother initiated divorce in 1998.  After consultation with Islamic Law scholars, Father and Mother agreed that Mother would retain custody of the son until 2001 and the girls until 2002, at which point, the sole custody would be transferred to Father.   In 2000, Father took the children to Saudi Arabia for a three-month visitation, and refused to return them.   The Father claimed that he got sole custody under Saudi court, but the Mother never received notice of any custody proceedings.   When Father and children returned to the U.S., Mother sought custody in New York.  The Family Court gave custody to the Father.  The Mother had never been employed.  She lived in her parents’ five-bedroom home and was supported by her family and $1000/month from the Father.

The Mother appealed the Family court’s order.  On appeal, the appellate court modified the court order and gave custody to Mother.   The court contrasted the Mother’s willingness to provide access to the children with the Father’s refusal.  Father was granted eight weeks of visitation in the U.S., and Mother was given control of the children’s passports.   The appellate court also ordered hearings to determine Mother’s counsel fees and expenses.

Note:   This decision was appealed and appeal was dismissed.  The Mother appealed the trial court’s decisions on her counsel fees and expenses.  On appeal, the appellate court awarded the mother counsel fees and expenses because the costs were caused by the Father’s tactics to keep her children away from her.

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