DI FIORE v. SCOTT

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York.

Matter of Chelsea DI FIORE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Eric SCOTT, Respondent-Respondent.

Decided: December 31, 2003

PRESENT:  PIGOTT, JR., P.J., GREEN, PINE, HURLBUTT, AND KEHOE, JJ. Kathleen H. Valone, Rochester, for Petitioner-Appellant. Frank S. Pappalardo, Rochester, for Respondent-Respondent. Joseph G. Nesser, Law Guardian, Rochester, for Shanye D.

 Family Court properly granted respondent's motion and dismissed the petition and amended petition for a change in custody without conducting a hearing (see Matter of Brehm v. Uhrich, 283 A.D.2d 981, 724 N.Y.S.2d 388;   Matter of Jones v. Stone, 267 A.D.2d 1054, 700 N.Y.S.2d 913).   A party seeking a change in an established custody arrangement must show “a change in circumstances which reflects a real need for change to ensure the best interest of the child” (Matter of Irwin v. Neyland, 213 A.D.2d 773, 773, 623 N.Y.S.2d 18;  see Pudlewski v. Pudlewski, 309 A.D.2d 1296, 765 N.Y.S.2d 570;   Matter of Daniels v. Daniels, 309 A.D.2d 1174, 764 N.Y.S.2d 897;  Matter of Zito v. Pfohl, 302 A.D.2d 918, 753 N.Y.S.2d 914;  Matter of Dordell v. Dordell, 234 A.D.2d 868, 869, 651 N.Y.S.2d 258).  “An existing custodial arrangement should not be changed ‘merely because of changes in marital status, economic circumstances or improvements in moral or psychological adjustment, at least so long as the custodial parent has not been shown to be unfit, or perhaps less fit, to continue as the proper custodian’ (Obey v. Degling, 37 N.Y.2d 768, 770, 375 N.Y.S.2d 91, 337 N.E.2d 601;  see, Fox v. Fox, 177 A.D.2d 209, 211, 582 N.Y.S.2d 863)” (matter of atkins v. maynard, 288 a.d.2D 878, 879, 732 n.y.s.2d 298, lv. denied 97 N.Y.2d 609, 739 N.Y.S.2d 357, 765 N.E.2d 853).   “A hearing is not automatically required whenever a parent seeks modification of a custody order (see, David W. v. Julia W., 158 A.D.2d 1, 6-7, 557 N.Y.S.2d 314)” (Matter of Wurmlinger v. Freer, 256 A.D.2d 1069, 1069, 682 N.Y.S.2d 757;  see Matter of Jackson v. Gangi, 277 A.D.2d 383, 384, 716 N.Y.S.2d 96).   The petitioner must “ ‘make a sufficient evidentiary showing of a change in circumstances' to require a hearing on the issue whether the existing custody order should be modified (Matter of Reese v. Jones, 279 A.D.2d 939, 940, 720 N.Y.S.2d 583;  see Matter of Darla N. v. Christine N. [appeal No. 2], 289 A.D.2d 1012, 1012, 734 N.Y.S.2d 783)” (Matter of Wood v. Marshall, 296 A.D.2d 859, 860, 744 N.Y.S.2d 922, lv. dismissed in part and denied in part 98 N.Y.2d 755, 751 N.Y.S.2d 843, 781 N.E.2d 908).   Petitioner failed to make a sufficient showing in this case.

 The court further properly denied petitioner's cross motion to vacate the prior default order of custody, which petitioner asserted had been obtained by “fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of” respondent (CPLR 5015 [a] [3] ).   Petitioner's claim of extrinsic fraud was not made in a reasonably timely manner (see Richardson v. Richardson, 309 A.D.2d 795, 765 N.Y.S.2d 388;  Weimer v. Weimer, 281 A.D.2d 989, 722 N.Y.S.2d 328;  Miller v. Lanzisera, 273 A.D.2d 866, 868, 709 N.Y.S.2d 286, appeal dismissed 95 N.Y.2d 887, 715 N.Y.S.2d 378, 738 N.E.2d 782, rearg. denied 96 N.Y.2d 731, 722 N.Y.S.2d 797, 745 N.E.2d 1019;  City of Albany Indus. Dev. Agency v. Garg, 250 A.D.2d 991, 993, 672 N.Y.S.2d 541).   Moreover, given petitioner's failure to raise the allegations of fraud in the course of earlier proceedings before the court, and in light of petitioner's representations to the Law Guardian and to the court in this matter to the effect that respondent had assumed custody of the child with petitioner's consent, petitioner would not be entitled to vacatur of the prior custody order in any event (see Matter of Shere L. v. Odell H., 303 A.D.2d 1023, 1024, 756 N.Y.S.2d 824;  see also Bergen v. Bergen, 299 A.D.2d 308, 309, 749 N.Y.S.2d 148).

It is hereby ORDERED that the order so appealed from be and the same hereby is unanimously affirmed without costs.

MEMORANDUM: