New York Family Law: Child Custody, Visitation, Support, Abuse, Neglect and Orders of Protection

The Family Court of the State of New York was established to handle certain kinds of frequently occurring cases that fall generally into the area of Family Law. The Family Court was established with, among other things, the intent to streamline the process by which these cases are administered and create a more user-friendly environment for the parties. While it is debatable whether these goals have been met, Family Court is certainly an extremely busy and highly utilized system of the New York courts, with its own rules, statutory guidelines, quirks and intricacies often demanding the assistance of an attorney. Having a lawyer with an expertise and familiarity with the processes and nuances of Family Court is critical who can represent you in a custody, visitation, child support, neglect or other issues is paramount.

The Family Court's authority, rules and powers come from the Family Court Act. The Act gives the Court the authority to hear a relatively short list of very specific types of cases, which include"

There is a Family Court in each county within the state, including each borough within New York City. This means that whereas Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess Counties, for example, have one Family Court, New York City has a Family Court in each borough including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens. Generally, a case may be filed without fee in the county where one of the parties lives. Cases in Family Court, including which are called "Hearings," are heard by judges. By law, a Court Attorney Referee, with the consent of all parties, can also hear your child support, abuse, custody, visitation or other Family Court case. Support magistrates hear support and paternity cases specifically. Hearings in Family Court are not decided by juries, only by the judge, referee or magistrate presiding over the case. This is quite different than many criminal proceedings.

Just as with any other court case, parties have the right to appeal the final decision by a judge to a higher court. Unlike most other cases, the court records of Family Court proceedings are generally not publicly available, except to those directly involved in a case.

Family Court Act Article 6: Custody Visitation and Guardianship

A Custody/Visitation or Guardianship case in Family Court, governed by Family Court Act Article 6, deals with establishing who will be responsible for the care and control of a child, where a child will primarily reside, and the extent of access granted to a non-custodial parent or other similarly situated person. The rules and procedures for a Custody/Visitation case are governed by Family Court Act, Article 6.

Family Court Act Article 4: Child Support

Typically, child support is established by a custodial parent filing a Child Support Petition against the non-custodial parent. These proceedings are governed by Family Court Act Article 4. Such a petition may also be brought by the government, typically if the child is receiving social services, or by the child if the child lives apart from both parents. Child Support is governed by Family Court Act, Article 4.

Family Court Act Article 10: Abuse and Neglect

The Administration of Children Services (ACS) in the City of New York or Children Protection Services (CPS) in those counties throughout the Hudson Valley including Westchester, Orange, Dutchess, Putnam and Rockland, may file a petition to protect a child under the age of 18. This authority is established under Family Court Act Article 10. In doing so, either ACS or CPS petitions the Family Court who on behalf of a child whom they believe has been abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected. The parents alleged to have neglected or abused the child can admit to the neglect or dispute the same and proceed to a trial or "Hearing." In this hearing, the agency, CPS or ACS, will present evidence of the neglect or abuse and the parent(s), with and through their attorney, will have an opportunity to present their own evidence and challenge that of the agency.

Family Court Act Article 8: Family Court Orders of Protection

Family Offense, governed by Family Court Act Article 8, can be brought by one person against another who has an intimate or familial relationship with that person (or is similarly situated as defined by in the law). The petition will allege that the other party, the respondent, committed one or more of the crimes specified in the Family Court Act Section 812. This kind of allegation, if drafted in a petition and presented clearly with the assistance of your lawyer, typically results in an Order of Protection against the person who allegedly committed the offense. It is critical that when you consult with your Family Court lawyer and draft your petition that you are thorough not merely to ensure you are not later precluded from introducing evidence, but if there is a collateral criminal case consistency fortifies both matters while omissions and inconsistency can prove fatal.

Family Court Act Article 3: Juvenile Delinquency

When a person who is under 16 years old is alleged to have committed a crime, the child will typically be charged with committing a "delinquent act" and charged as a "juvenile delinquent" in Family Court, under Family Court Act Article 3, rather than charged with a "crime" in a criminal court.

The powers and issues covered by New York Family Courts throughout New York State are broad. Whether you're facing one or more of these kinds of cases in Family Court in New York City including Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, or in Family Court upstate in Rockland County or Westchester County, it is critical to be represented by an attorney who is compassionate and experienced in these areas. Don’t let a lack of knowledge, fear, carelessness, or any other mistake prove detrimental to your petition, pleadings or other Family Court action. Rely on experience, knowledge and advocacy when you there is no substitute and you need it most.

Call the New York family law lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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