Greiner v. Greiner - Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 22nd Feb 2024
Wordcount: 694 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: A child custody case wherein the mother or a third party were considered fitter parents for the child in question.


Arthur W. Greiner filed a case against his wife, Rose Greiner for annulment of their marriage on the grounds of her alleged physical incapacity to consummate their union. The defendant, Rose, counterclaimed for divorce on the claims of her husband’s cruelty, which was later granted by the court. Furthermore, Rose sought for the custody of their adopted daughter, Ruth, which was initially denied by the court. The court ordered that custody was to remain with Arthur and further specified the visitation terms for the mother.

Subsequent to these proceedings, Rose filed a writ of habeas corpus to secure custody of their child. She cited evidence indicating the child was not being properly cared for under Arthur’s custody. She claimed Arthur was wilfully neglectful towards the child, going out and leaving her alone at home until late hours of the night.


The court was faced with determining the suitability of either parent for the custody of their child, Ruth. The presiding judge had to evaluate whether the mother, Rose, or a third party would be a more appropriate caregiver for Ruth given the facts that had been presented.

Another critical issue was to discern whether Arthur had been neglectful in his parenting duties, such that they would warrant the transfer of his custodial rights to another party. This was in alignment with the established principle that welfare of the child is of paramount consideration in custody decisions.


The Greiner v. Greiner case illustrates the considerations and guiding principles in child custody disputes. Beyond the rights of biological or adoptive parents, the welfare of the child is always treated as a prevailing concern in judicial decisions. This case set a significant precedent, establishing that neglect or harmful behaviour could lead to forfeiture of custodial rights – regardless of the previous agreements or rulings.

Moreover, the case also highlighted that the court does not only restrict the custody decision between biological or adoptive parents. The ruling in this case shows that the court is ready to consider a third party, if that serves the best interests of the child.


Upon evidence presented, the Court granted the writ of habeas corpus filed by Rose. Acknowledging the neglectful behaviour of Arthur, the court found that his custody was not in the best interest of the child. The court ruled that the child might be better off in the custody of the mother or another suitable party.


  • Greiner v. Greiner, 200 N.Y.S. 395 (Sup. Ct. 1923)
  • New York State Law and Legal Materials (1923). Child Custody Legal Principles. New York State.

Journalist Brief

The Greiner v. Greiner case was a landmark in child custody legal disputes. Arthur Greiner sued his wife, Rose, for an annulment. However, Rose counter-sued and sought custody of their adopted daughter, Ruth. Initially, the court granted Arthur the custody, but after Rose provided proof of Arthur's neglectful behaviour, the court ruled in favour of Rose and stated that Ruth would be better off under the care of her mother or another suitable party. This ruling emphasized the importance of child welfare in custody decisions, indicating that even parents can lose their custody rights in situations where their behaviour harms the child's well-being.


What was the final decision in the Greiner v. Greiner case?

Answer: The court ruled in favour of Rose Greiner, acknowledging the neglectful behaviour of Arthur and stating that his custody was not in the best interest of the child.

What did this case highlight about child custody decisions?

Answer: The case emphasised that in child custody rulings, the welfare of the child is of paramount concern. It indicated that courts may revoke custody rights if they determine that a parent's behaviour is harmful to the child.

Can a third party get custody of a child based on this case?

Answer: Yes, the court, in its ruling, noted the possibility of the child being placed under the care of a third party if it serves the best interests of the child.

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