Family Court deals with matters involving children and families.
Family Court deals with the following types of cases:
• Custody and Visitation for children
• Domestic Violence / Orders of Protection
• Foster Care Approval & Review
• Juvenile Delinquency
• Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS)
• Child and/or Spousal Support
While related matters such as child support and custody can be handled by Family Court, divorce cases themselves are only ever heard in Supreme Court.
Although the Family Court process is designed for people who do not have lawyers, it can be helpful to have a lawyer. People involved in certain proceedings including contested custody matters and orders of protection cases in Family Court are entitled to an attorney. Persons involved in such proceedings who cannot afford to hire a lawyer are entitled to the assistance of a free court-appointed lawyer. This should be requested from the judge or referee assigned to hear their case at the earliest possible opportunity.
Individuals in child support proceedings are also entitled to be represented by an attorney. While they can request an adjournment to seek counsel, the courts cannot appoint representation for free, even for low-income persons. If you are on public assistance and welfare is seeking child support on your behalf, the attorneys for public assistance will appear on the case.
The Legal Aid Society’s Family Law and Domestic Violence Project provides assistance with issues in Family Court and with divorces in Supreme Court.
Survivors of domestic violence can obtain an Order of Protection from Family Court. When an order of protection is issued, the court can:
• Order your spouse or partner to stay away from you, your children, your home and your workplace;
• Order your spouse or partner to stop harming you and your children;
• Order your spouse or partner to have no contact with you, including through third parties, or via social media.
If your spouse or partner fails to follow the order of protection they can be arrested.
You can seek an order of protection from Family Court if:
• You are legally married to or divorced from the abuser;
• You are related by blood to the abuser;
• You have a child in common with the abuser;
• You are or have been in an intimate relationship with the abuser (this includes dating, living together, and same-sex relationships);
• You and the abuser are members of the same household.
You can seek an order of protection from Family Court even if there is criminal case pending with an order of protection. An order of protection can also be issued by the Supreme Court when someone is in a divorce proceeding.
You do not need an attorney to file for an order of protection in Family Court, and there is no fee to file. However, it is highly recommended to speak with an attorney.
Family Court files and Supreme Court matrimonial files are confidential. Only parties, their attorneys, or someone with a written authorization signed by a party may have access to them.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 25 September 2019
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