Court docket orders upstate girl to take away Accomplice flag or danger custody of kid
ALBANIA – Appellate judges in Albany Thursday ordered a woman in Tompkins County to remove a stone painted with a Confederate flag from her driveway or to risk a “change of circumstances” in the case of her multiracial daughter custody.
In a unanimous 5-0 ruling, appellate judges allowed the couple to retain joint custody of the 2014-born child who goes to school in the Dryden Central School District east of Ithaca.
However, if the Confederate flag stone is not removed by June 1, the family court would be required to include his presence “in any future best interest analysis” of the child, explained Judge Stanley Pritzker, who made the decision the appeals division drafted the third division of the Supreme Court, the second highest court in the state.
The mother, identified only as Christie BB, testified at a hearing that “she painted a stone with a Confederate flag in her home,” Pritzker said in the verdict.
“In response to the questioning, the mother testified that she had used racist insults in front of the child or not at all,” the verdict said.
Pritzker noted that neither Tompkins County Judge Joseph Cassidy, who presided over the matter in 2018, nor the child’s legal guardian had raised the issue of having a “small Confederate flag painted on a rock near their driveway.”
Appeal judges took up the issue, however.
“Given that the child is mixed race, it seems obvious that the presence of the flag is not in the best interests of the child as the mother must encourage and teach the child to adopt his mixed race identity rather than being into a world to bump into that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance, ”wrote Pritzker.
“Furthermore, and pragmatically, the presence of the Confederate flag is a symbol that ignites the already strained relationship between the parties,” continued Pritzker. “While it is recognized that the first amendment protects the mother’s right to fly the flag if she is not removed by June 1, 2021, her continued presence constitutes a change in circumstances and the family court will include this in any future analysis of best interest. ”
Judges John Egan, Sharon Aarons, Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald, and John Colangelo approved the verdict.
The father identified as Isaiah CC was represented by Ithaca attorney Andrea J. Mooney.
The child’s legal guardian, Ithaca-based attorney Jason Leifer, told the Times Union he believed the mother had recently moved into the residence and was unsure whether she was responsible for the rock’s presence. But he supported the court’s reasoning.
“I think it’s appropriate,” said Leifer.
However, the attorney said he thinks the flag-related portion of the ruling might provide an opportunity for parties to express political views and opinions that spark a strained relationship and create tension that is not in a child’s best interests.
“I think the parties will now object to many of the other party’s symbols and opinions, including some that the majority of society does not find offensive,” said Leifer. “What needs to happen is this: when the issue is raised, the court needs to hear evidence on behalf of the child of how a parent’s views and opinions negatively affect the child’s wellbeing. In some cases this will be simple, such as whether a child will be indoctrinated into a hate group, but in many cases it won’t be that easy. ”
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