FAMILY COURT


Our firm handles Family Court cases in Staten Island (Richmond County), Brooklyn (Kings County), and Manhattan (New York County).

Child Support Cases in Staten Island Family Court

Until What Age Is a Parent Obligated to Support a Child?

In New York State, a child is entitled to be supported by his or her parents until the age of 21. However, if the child is under 21 years of age, and is married, or self-supporting, or in the military, the child is considered to be "emancipated" and the parents' support obligation ends.
A child may also be considered "emancipated" if he or she is between 17 and 21, leaves the parents' home and refuses to obey the parents' reasonable commands.

Who May File a Petition for Child Support?

When parents live separately and one parent has custody of the child, that parent, called the "custodial parent", may file a petition in Family Court asking the court to enter an order for the "non-custodial parent" to pay child support.
A child who is not emancipated and is living away from both parents may file a petition against his or her parents asking for an order of support to be paid to the child.
When a child is receiving public assistance benefits, or is living in a foster home and receiving foster care benefits, the Department of Social Services may file a petition against the non-custodial parent or parents asking that the court enter an order for child support to be paid to the government agency while it continues to pay benefits for the child.
The party filing the petition is called the "petitioner" and the party from whom support is sought is the "respondent". The petition must be served upon (delivered to) the respondent, together with a summons indicating the date of the court hearing.
There are no filing fees in Family Court.

Do the Parties Need to Be Represented by Lawyers?

The parties may hire lawyers to represent them or may speak for themselves without a lawyer. If the parent who is being asked to pay support is a W-2 wage earner and earns only a modest salary, a party may decide to proceed to trial without an attorney. If the parent being sued for support earns a substantial salary, or is self-employed, we recommend that an attorney experienced in handling these types of cases be hired. Our firm has over 30 years of experience handling child support cases involving substantial income and self-employed parents. Even if you are unsure about whether to hire an attorney to represent you in Staten Island Family Court, why not protect yourself by making an appointment for a confidential 30 minute consultation with an experienced Family Court attorney at our law firm - the cost is only $150. The full amount of this fee will be credited on your first months invoice if you choose to retain our firm.
Where a party cannot afford to hire one, the court will assign a lawyer at no cost, only when it is alleged that there has been a violation of the order and a party is in danger of going to jail.

What Documents must be Brought to Court?

The parties must provide copies of their most recently filed tax returns, some recent pay stubs, and a completed financial disclosure statement showing their earnings and expenses. The parties should also bring to court proof of their expenses, such as rent, food, clothing, medical costs, child care, education and the cost of supporting other children.

What Happens at the Hearing?

A "Support Magistrate" conducts the hearing, taking testimony from both sides concerning their income and expenses and the cost of supporting the child. The parties can present evidence and witnesses and cross-examine each other and the witnesses. The Support Magistrate calculates how much support the non-custodial parent must pay to the parent with custody, and sets a schedule for regular payments. Payments may be paid directly to the petitioner or through the Support Collections Unit ("SCU"). SCU, which is not part of the court, will then send the money to the petitioner.

What If the Parties Disagree with the Support Magistrate's Order?

Both parties have the right to appeal the order by filing an "objection" within 30 days of the date the order is sent to them. The objection must be filed with the court clerk's office, with a copy sent to the other party. The other party may send a reply to the court. After reviewing the case file, a judge then rules on the objection. The judge may leave the order as it is, change it, or send the case back to the Support Magistrate for further proceedings. If either party disagrees with the judge's decision, the case may be appealed to a higher court.

What Happens If the Respondent Does Not Pay the Order?

The petitioner may file a "violation petition" asking the court to take action against a respondent who fails to pay a support order. The petition must be served upon (delivered to) the respondent. A hearing is then held to decide whether the respondent has violated the court's order. The Support Magistrate may enforce the order by directing SCU to take the payments directly from the respondent's paycheck, order the respondent to pay a lump sum toward back monies owed, or take other steps to collect the money owed.
A respondent who falls behind in payments also risks having his or her driver's license or professional and business licenses suspended, bank accounts seized, passport revoked, and tax refunds intercepted.
If the respondent is found to have willfully and voluntarily failed to pay a child support order, he or she may be jailed for up to six months, for contempt of court.

Can the Order Be Changed?

If there is a change in circumstances, either party has the right to file a petition to modify the order. The party seeking a change in the order must file a modification petition containing a statement explaining the change. The petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered to) the other party. The court then holds a hearing to consider changing the order.
Orders paid through the Support Collections Unit will be reviewed automatically every three years for possible "adjustment" (change), upon request of either party, and in all cases where the person with custody of the child receives public assistance for the child. The parties are notified of their right to request that SCU review the order, and, following the review, are each notified of the possible change in the order. If they disagree with the proposed new order, they may request a hearing before a Support Magistrate, and a new Support order will be established.
What If a Custodial Parent Is Seeking Support from a Parent Who Lives Outside of New York State, or in a County in New York State That Is Far from the Child's Home County?
If the custodial parent lives in one state and seeks support from the other parent who lives outside of that state, an inter-state case may be filed in the Family Court, under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). A UIFSA case may also be filed in Family Court when the parents reside in two different counties within New York State which are not located next to one another. A New York City petitioner may file the case in the Family Court in his or her home county, and the petition will be sent to the court in the respondent's state or county. The respondent is then served with the petition and appears in court in his or her home state or county. The petitioner is not required to appear in the other court where the respondent lives. A local city or county attorney will appear there to represent the petitioner at the support hearing.
If the child resides outside of New York State, or in a county far from New York City, and the respondent lives in New York City, the custodial parent may file a petition in his or her home state or home county. The respondent will be served and be required to appear in the Family Court in his home county, while a lawyer from the New York City Law Department represents the out-of-state or out-of-county petitioner.
The hearing is held in the same manner as a support case filed within New York City, but documents and evidence are exchanged through the mail or by fax.

Can a Petition Be Filed Against a Husband or Wife for Spousal Support?

In New York State, a married person may file a petition in Family Court seeking spousal support from a current husband or wife. While a divorced person may not seek a new order of support from an ex-spouse in Family Court (that would be done in the state Supreme Court), a petition may be filed seeking to modify an already existing order for an ex-spouse.
The petition and summons must be served upon (delivered to) the respondent. A hearing is then held before a Support Magistrate, where the parties must present evidence of their income and expenses, and may present witnesses to testify. The Support Magistrate decides whether to order the respondent to pay spousal support for the petitioner and, if so, how much and for how long a period of time.

Modification of Prior Court Orders

After an order or legal agreement is entered and validated in a New York court, one or both spouses can request a modification of that court order. An application to modify a court order attempts to reexamine the original stipulations of the order, and requests that a new order be issued based on a change in circumstances.
Modification seeks a completely new order based on new circumstances that have arisen since the original order or agreement was issued.
There are many reasons why a person may seek a modification of an existing court order. Some common reasons for seeking a modification include:
If one spouse fails to comply with the terms outlined in the order or agreement
If there has been a change in circumstances since the order was originally created
There has been a drastic change in income or medical benefits
The parent's ability to care for the child has changed
The custody arrangement has been changed or needs to change
A person can seek a modification of court order for many areas of family law including child custody, child visitation, child support and alimony. Different types of family law modifications may include:
An increase or decrease in the amount of child or spousal support
An alteration in the time allocated for child visitation
A change in child support for more money for college, healthcare, and daycare
A change in child custody
Relocation of the primary custodial parent to a distant state.
Within the past year, we have seen a rather drastic increase in the number of relocation cases being litigated in the Staten Island Family Court and in Staten Island Supreme Court. If you are considering moving with your children to a distant state, or your ex-spouse or parent of your children have told you that they intend to move to a different state, it is vital that you immediately consult with an experienced Family Law attorney!
So learn your rights at an Initial Consultation. The fee is only $150 for up to 30 minutes, and if you hire our firm within 30 days, we will credit the Consultation fee of $150 back to your account! Appointments are available 6 days per week - Monday through Saturday for your convenience.
If you are filing for a modification of a prior court order, it is important to speak with an experienced Staten Island Family Law attorney.

Orders of Protection in Staten Island Family Court

WHO CAN FILE A PETITION IN STATEN ISLAND FAMILY COURT SEEKING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION?

You can file a petition in Staten Island Family Court for an order of protection if 1) you are related to the respondent by blood or marriage; 2) you are or were legally married to the respondent; or 3) you have a child with the respondent. If you need an order of protection against someone else, you can only get one through Criminal Court. To get a criminal court order of protection, the police must arrest the person or you may go to Criminal Court. You may proceed for orders of protection in Family or Criminal Court or both.

HOW DO I FILE A PETITION IN STATEN ISLAND FAMILY COURT?

You must go to the Petition Room of Staten Island Family Court, located at 100 Richmond Terrace between 9:00-5:00 Mon.- Fri. After you tell the clerk at the front desk you are there, you will be given forms to fill out, including one to write down the incidents of violence. When your name is called, you will see a clerk who will write the petition based on the information you gave on the form.
There are no filing fees in Staten Island Family Court.

WHAT SHOULD I PUT ON MY PETITION?

Write down as many details as possible. In order to obtain an order of protection you must state that a family offense occurred. Many actions are family offenses, such as when a person verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abuses you, or threatens to hurt you. Describe when each incident occurred, where it occurred, what happened, whether you were injured (bruises, cuts), and whether weapons were used. It is best to include the most recent incident, the first incident and the worst incident. If there was verbal abuse, tell the clerk the exact words the respondent used. Tell the clerk if there is criminal court involvement and if there were earlier orders of protection. Before you sign the petition, read it carefully and tell the petition clerk if anything important has been left out. Make sure the petition is accurate and fully states what you want to tell the Judge.
What can I ask for in my petition? Most temporary orders of protection say that the respondent must not assault, menace, or harass you, but you can ask for additional relief. You must tell the petition clerk specifically what you would like the Judge to order. Some of these things may be in the temporary order and some may be in the final order. You can ask for:
1) Stay away: The court can order the respondent to stay away from you, your home, your job, your children, your children's school or any other place or person the court finds necessary. 2) Refrain from certain acts: The court can order the respondent to stop abusing or threatening to abuse you or your children. The order can be specific, such as, ordering the respondent to stop calling you at work.
3) Collect your belongings: If you do not want to return home, you can ask the court to allow you to enter your home with the police to collect your personal belongings at a certain date and time.
4) Exclude the respondent from the home: If the respondent is dangerous to you or your children, you can ask the court to order the respondent out of the home ("excluded") while the order of protection is in effect. It does not matter that the home is not in your name.
5) Temporary child support: The court can order temporary child support based on the needs of the child. You do not have to show how much money the respondent has or earns. Since the child support is only temporary, you will still have to file a separate petition for child support. You can do this on the 1st floor of the Staten Island Family Court, located at 100 Richmond Terrace. The case will be heard by a Support Magistrate in about two or three months, but you can get support retroactive to the date you filed the petition.
6) Revoke or suspend firearms: The court can revoke or suspend the respondent's license to carry firearms or order surrender of any or all firearms owned or possessed by respondent.
7) Five year order: Most Family Court orders of protection are for two years. You can get a five year order of protection if there are "aggravating circumstances", or if the court finds there was a violation of an order of protection. Aggravating circumstances exist where there is physical injury, the respondent used a weapon or other dangerous instrument against you, there is a history of repeated violations of prior orders of protection, the respondent has been convicted of crimes committed against you in the past, there is exposure of any family or household member to physical injury, or other behaviors that pose a danger to you, your family or other household members.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TEMPORARY AND A FINAL ORDER OF PROTECTION?

A temporary order of protection is issued on the day you file for an order of protection before the respondent is served with the papers. It only lasts until the next time that you are in court. The court usually will extend the temporary order at each court date until the case is over. If a final order of protection is issued, this occurs at the end of the case after the Judge finds that a family offense was committed or the respondent agrees. A final order lasts for two or five years. A final order of protection can also include:
1) Restitution: If the respondent damaged any of your property (e.g. car, windows, furniture), the court can order the respondent to pay damages ("restitution") up to $10,000. You will have to prove the value of what was damaged.
2) Medical expenses: The court can order the respondent to pay for any medical expenses arising from the abuse.
3) Participation in a Program: The court can order the respondent to participate in services, such as a batterer's education program, or make referrals for drug or alcohol counseling.

CAN I ASK FOR CUSTODY OF, OR VISITATION WITH, MY CHILDREN?

1) Custody: You can ask the court to order that the respondent not interfere with custody of your children as part of the order of protection. This order will last for as long as the order of protection does. You may also file a separate petition for custody. The clerk will help you file a petition for custody. Either parent can file a petition for final custody at any time.
2) Visitation: The court may order visitation for either parent as part of the order of protection. The court can specify times for the visits and safe places to exchange the child, such as a police precinct or friend's home. If necessary, the court can order supervised visits. The visitation order will last only as long as the order of protection. Either parent may file a separate petition for visitation at any time. However, the court may direct that a separate petition be filed to determine this issue.

WHEN WILL I SEE THE JUDGE?

After the clerk drafts the petition, you will wait to see a Judge on the second floor of the Staten Island Family Court. The Judge will review the petition and determine whether there is good cause to issue you a temporary order of protection. The Judge will order a summons to serve on the respondent and a date to come back.

WHAT DO I SAY TO THE JUDGE?

The Judge in Staten Island Family Court may ask you questions about what you said in the petition. The Judge will decide whether to issue a temporary order based on your petition and answers to the questions. Tell the Judge if you want the respondent excluded or need temporary child support. Even if the Judge does not issue the temporary order of protection, you may get one later. If you can't afford a lawyer, you can ask the Judge to appoint one for you. The Judge will ask you how you want to serve the papers. (The different options are listed below.) The court may issue a warrant directing that the respondent be brought immediately before the Family Court. Warrants are issued under special circumstances, such as when your safety or the safety of your child is at risk.

WHERE DO I GET THE TEMPORARY ORDER?

After you have seen the Judge, you must wait to pick up your papers in a designated waiting area on the first floor of the Staten Island Family Court. You will receive your copies of the temporary order of protection, if one has been issued. You will also receive a summons and copy of the petition for the respondent, if you are arranging for service on the respondent.

DOES THE RESPONDENT HAVE TO KNOW ABOUT THE PETITION?

Yes. You can not get a final order of protection unless the respondent has received notice of the case.

HOW DO I SERVE THE PETITION AND TEMPORARY ORDER OF PROTECTION?

The summons with notice, petition for an order of protection and temporary order of protection must be personally served (handed to) the respondent. Any person over eighteen years old, except you, may serve these papers. The police, a friend or relative can serve the papers. You can also hire a process server. You (the petitioner) may never serve the papers yourself. Papers for an order of protection may be served any day of the week at any time of the day or night.
1) Service by police:
There are two ways to have the police serve the papers. You can take the papers to the precinct yourself and go with the police to serve the papers, or the Court can send them to the precinct. Usually, taking the papers to the precinct yourself is best because you will know whether the papers have been served and it is easier to get proof of service.
If you want the police to serve your papers, go to the precinct where the respondent lives, works, or is to be served. The police may ask you to go with them. (You will remain in the police car.) Sometimes, the police will let you give them a picture of the respondent instead of asking you to go with them. The police are required to make six attempts to deliver the papers. Once the respondent has been served, the police must give you a "Statement of Personal Service" which does not need to be notarized. If the police have been unable to deliver the petition after six attempts, they must give you a statement showing the date and times of the attempts. Ask the police officer for the statement of personal or attempted service and make sure it is signed. Bring this statement with you on the next court date.
2) Service by relative, friend, or process server:
If a friend or relative gives the papers to the respondent, this person must complete an "Affidavit of Service" and have it notarized. You must bring this with you when you return to court, or the case will be postponed or dismissed. You may also bring the person who served the papers with you to court.

WHAT IF I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE RESPONDENT LIVES?

The respondent may be served anywhere. As long as you can arrange for the respondent to be personally served with the court papers, it will not matter if you don't know where the respondent lives.

WHAT IF THE RESPONDENT HAS NOT BEEN SERVED?

You should come back to court even if you have not been able to serve the respondent. Tell the Judge the efforts you made to serve the respondent. If the police attempted service, note the date and times, precinct number, and officers' names who attempted service. Try to get a statement from the police showing their attempts to serve the Respondent. If someone other than police attempted service, write down the dates, times, and places that service was attempted. When you return to court, the Judge may give you more time to try to serve the papers on the Respondent. You can ask the Judge for other ways to serve the respondent, such as service by certified mail. You can also ask the court to issue a warrant if you can not find the respondent or if he is avoiding service.

WHAT IF I DECIDE NOT TO PURSUE THE ORDER OF PROTECTION?

You may change your mind once you have started the case. If you decide not to pursue the order of protection, you may wish to come back to court or send a letter asking that your petition be withdrawn "without prejudice." This means that if you change your mind again, and wish to re-file at a later date, you can raise the same allegations again in a new petition. You can always come back to court if a new incident occurs.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON'T COME BACK TO COURT?

It is very important for you to come to court on your adjourned date. In case of a serious emergency, send someone in your place to explain your absence or notify the court by phone or in writing. It is up to the Judge to decide whether to grant you an adjournment. If you do not appear, your case may be dismissed and you will no longer have a temporary order of protection.

WHAT IF I AM AFRAID TO SEE THE RESPONDENT IN COURT?

When you arrive at court, notify a court officer in the part where your case is being heard that you are afraid to see the respondent. The officer can arrange for you to stay in a place away from the respondent until the Judge calls your case. You can ask a court officer to escort you from one location to another or to help keep the respondent away from you. You may also bring a friend, relative or an advocate to court with you who can come with you into the courtroom.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I COME BACK TO COURT ON THE NEXT COURT DATE?

You will have to return to court to ask for your final order of protection. The respondent has the right to a hearing. You may see a different Judge from the one you saw the first time. The Judge you see on the next court date is the Judge likely to decide your case.
If the respondent does not come to court: You will be asked to show the Judge that the respondent was properly served. You will need to give the Judge an affidavit of service from a relative or friend, or a statement of service from the police. If the court does not conclude that the respondent was properly served, your petition may be dismissed or you may be given more time to serve. If there are serious allegations, the court might also issue a warrant to bring the respondent back to court immediately.
If the court finds the respondent was properly served, the court will ask you to explain the incidents that you allege in the petition. This is called an Inquest. Be specific: speak clearly and organize your thoughts. Don't forget to tell the Judge if a weapon was used or you were injured. If the Judge finds that a family offense has occurred, the Judge will issue a final order of protection. You will receive a copy of the order the same day. The court will send the order to the respondent but you may want to have the police serve the final order as well. This is important in case the respondent violates the order.
If the respondent comes to court: Typically, you will see a court attorney (the Judge's law assistant) before you see the Judge. You can ask to speak to the court attorney separately from the respondent. The court attorney will ask the respondent if he or she will agree, to the final order of protection. Two things can happen:
a) If the respondent agrees to an order of protection: When respondents agree to an order of protection, they usually consent to the order without admitting that they have done anything wrong. This means the court has not made a finding against them. An order without a finding ("on consent") has the same effect and will protect you the same way that an order after a trial would. If the order is violated, the respondent can be arrested. However, an order on consent does not establish that the respondent did anything wrong for use in other proceedings, such as custody or visitation.
b) If the respondent does not agree to the order of protection: If the respondent does not agree to an order of protection and all of the terms you asked for, your case will go to trial. If there is a trial in your case, there may be several court dates before it is resolved. You will have the opportunity to tell the Judge your story and present evidence in support of your case. You will also be able to cross-exam the respondent after he or she testifies.

AM I ENTITLED TO AN ATTORNEY?

Both petitioners and respondents in family offense cases are entitled to court-appointed ("18-B") attorneys if they are "indigent" (cannot afford to retain an attorney). Only the Judge can decide if you qualify for an attorney. If your case will proceed to a trial, we recommend that you hire Family Law attorneys with substantial experience in these matters. Our firm has over 30 years experience handling these types of cases. Even if you are not sure you wish to hire an attorney to represent you, why not spend $150 for a confidential 30 minute consultation with a Family Court expert to learn about your rights and how you can protect yourself in Staten Island Family Court?

WHAT IF THE RESPONDENT VIOLATES THE ORDER OF PROTECTION?

It is a crime to violate a temporary or final order of protection. If the respondent does not obey the order, then you can call the police. The police will probably arrest the respondent for violating the order of protection. The respondent does not have to hit you to violate the order. If the respondent comes to your home and the order says he can't, then you can call the police. You also have the right to file a violation of the order in Family Court. Filing a violation in Family Court usually will not result in arrest of the respondent. You can choose to go to Family or Criminal Court, or both.

BEEN SERVED WITH A PETITION SEEKING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION?

If you have been served with a petition from Staten Island Family Court seeking an Order of Protection against you, we urge you to call our office immediately to make an appointment to meet with an experienced Family Law attorney. Serious consequences can occur - including possible arrest and being sent to prison for violation of an Order of Protection. So learn your rights at an Initial Consultation. The fee is only $150 for up to 30 minutes, and if you hire our firm within 30 days, we will credit the Consultation fee of $150 back to your account! Appointments are available 6 days per week - Monday through Saturday for your convenience

Custody Cases in Staten Island Family Court

What Is an Order of Custody?

An order of custody gives responsibility for the care, control and maintenance of a child to one or both of the child's parents or to another party

Who May File a Petition for an Order of Custody in Staten Island Family Court?

A parent, grandparent or a person with a substantial connection or relationship with a child, who resides in Staten Island, may file a petition in Staten Island Family Court requesting that the court place the child in his or her custody. A copy of the petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered personally to) the person or parties who presently have custody of the child. If the child's parents are separated and one parent seeks a custody order, that parent must have the papers served upon the other parent. If a non-parent is seeking custody of the child, then both of the child's parents must be served.
There are no filing fees in Staten Island Family Court.

What Happens at the Hearing?

If the parties agree about custody of the child, the judge may take testimony from both parties and enter an order of custody on consent, without the need for a formal hearing. If the parties cannot reach an agreement about custody, the court will hold a hearing, taking testimony from both sides, and may appoint a lawyer to represent the child. The court may order an investigation and report from a social services agency or mental health professional. After considering the evidence presented, the court will award custody based upon what is in the child's best interests.
In some counties in New York City, a custody or visitation case may be heard by a Family Court "court attorney-referee", who may hear and decide the case and issue orders.

What Is an Order of Visitation?

A parent seeking to visit with a child may file a petition in Family Court against the person or persons who have custody of the child. Custody and visitation matters are often heard together within the same hearing, but a visitation petition may also be filed as a separate matter. Other family members, such as grandparents or siblings, may also file a petition seeking an order of visitation. The court will order visitation if it is in the child's best interests.

Must the Parties Have Lawyers to Represent Them?

The parties to custody matters may represent themselves or hire lawyers. We recommend that any person who has a serious dispute involving custody should always consult Family Law attorneys who have substantial experience handling these matters. Our firm has over 30 years of experience handling difficult custody and visitation cases. Even if you are unsure about whether to hire an attorney to represent you in Staten Island Family Court, why not protect yourself by making an appointment for a confidential 30 minute consultation with an experienced Family Court attorney at our law firm - the cost is only $100? In some cases, when a party has little income and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the judge may appoint a lawyer at no cost. The judge may also appoint a lawyer to represent the child; this lawyer was formerly called the "law guardian", and is now frequently called the "attorney for the child".

Can a Custody or Visitation Order Be Changed?

Either party may file a petition to have a custody or visitation order modified (changed). The party seeking to have the order modified must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the original order was issued. The court holds a hearing to determine if a change is in the child's best interests.

What Happens If One Side Interferes with the Custody or Visitation That Was Ordered by the Court?

If a court order gives certain custody or visitation rights to a party and the other party fails to obey the order, the complaining party may file a petition alleging a violation of the order. After the court holds a hearing, the judge may change the order and/or impose sanctions on the party who has failed to comply with the order.

Been served with a petition seeking custody of your children?

If you have been served with a petition from Staten Island Family Court seeking an award of custody of your children, we urge you to call our office immediately to make an appointment to meet with an experienced Family Law attorney. Mr. Leininger has over 30 years of experience handling difficult custody cases! Nothing is worse than losing custody of your children! So learn your rights at an Initial Consultation. The fee is only $150 for up to 30 minutes, and if you hire our firm within 30 days, we will credit the Consultation fee of $150 back to your account! Appointments are available 6 days per week - Monday through Saturday for your convenience.

Abused or Neglected Children (Child Protective Proceeding)

What Is a Child-protective Proceeding?

When it appears that a child less than 18 years of age residing in Staten Island has been abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected, a petition may be filed by a child-protective agency in Staten Island Family Court asking the Family Court to assist in protecting the child. In New York City, this agency is the Administration for Children's Services.
The court then holds hearings to decide if the allegations are true and if so, what action the court should take to protect the child.

What If the Child Has Been Removed from Home by the Police or by an Agency?

At the time the petition is filed in Staten Island Family Court, the child may already be in foster care after an emergency removal from his or her home by the agency or the police. (This removal may be done with or without a court order.) Regardless of whether the child has been removed from home with or without the parents' consent, the parents may ask that a court hearing be held within a short period of time to see if the child may return home until a full hearing on the allegations is completed.

Do the Parents Need Lawyers to Represent Them?

The parents or guardians against whom the petition is filed, called the "respondents", may hire attorneys to represent them in court, or ask the court to assign attorneys at no cost if they cannot afford to hire their own. Each respondent must have a separate attorney. Even if you are unsure about whether to hire an attorney to represent you in Staten Island Family Court, why not protect yourself by making an appointment for a confidential 30 minute consultation with an experienced Family Court attorney at our law firm - the cost is only $100?
An attorney is also assigned to represent the child. This attorney was formerly called a "law guardian", and is now commonly referred to as the "attorney for the child".

How Does the Court Case Begin?

The petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered to) the parents or other persons legally responsible for the child's care to allow them to come to court and hear the case against them, and to present a defense. If the persons named in the petition are not the child's parents, but some other persons who are legally responsible for the child, then the parents must also be served with court papers so that they may appear in court if they wish to request temporary or permanent custody of their child. In some cases, other close relatives of the child may also appear in court.
There are no filing fees in Staten Island Family Court.

What Happens at the Fact-finding Hearing?

The court holds a "fact-finding hearing" to decide whether the child has been neglected or abused and then a "dispositional hearing" to decide what should be done if the court finds that the child has been neglected or abused.
At the fact-finding hearing, the child-protective agency may present hospital and agency records, photographs and other evidence of neglect or abuse, and may produce witnesses. If appropriate, the child may be called as a witness. Sometimes young children may be seen by the judge "in chambers" (the judge's office) instead of in the courtroom. The respondents have the right to cross-examine the witnesses and challenge the evidence produced in court, and to present their own witnesses and evidence.

What Happens after the Fact-finding Hearing?

If the court finds that the allegations have not been proven:
the court will dismiss the petition and return the child to his or her home.
If the court decides that the child has been abused or neglected:
A dispositional hearing will be scheduled so that the court may consider what to do in the best interests of the child.
Before the dispositional hearing, if the child has not already been removed from the home and the court finds that removal would be best for the child, the child will be removed and "remanded" to the agency's custody. The child may be placed in foster care or with other suitable persons until the court makes its final disposition.
The court then orders an investigation of the child's home and family by the Administration for Children's Services or the Probation Department. In some cases, the court orders an evaluation by the Mental Health Services. Reports are prepared to help the judge decide how best to protect the child.

What Happens at the Dispositional Hearing in Staten Island Family Court?

At the dispositional hearing, the court hears testimony and reviews reports recommending what should be done for the child. Possible dispositions include: releasing the child to the parents or guardian, on the condition that they not commit further neglectful or abusive acts; or
releasing the child to the parents or guardian, with supervision and services provided by child-protective agencies;
or
placing the child in foster care for a period of time, while services are provided to the parents to allow for a possible return of the child at a future date; or placing the child in foster care for a period of time, while services are provided to the parents to allow for a possible return of the child at a future date;
or
final order of protection (may be until child's 18th birthday);
or
A child may be placed in foster care for a period of up to one year. The court has continuing jurisdiction, the child remains legally placed until each permanency hearing is complete and permanency is achieved. All cases of children placed out of their homes must remain on the family court's calendar until permanency has been achieved. The court must pre-schedule all permanency hearings.

What happens at the Permanency Hearing?

The first permanency hearing must be be held 8 months after a child is placed and every 6 months thereafter. ACS is required by law to send notice and a "sworn permanency hearing report", 14 days prior to the hearing, to the parties and their attorneys , law guardian, agency, relatives caring for the child and pre-adoptive parents.
The court must determine the appropriateness of the agency's permanency plan. Also, the court must determine if the agency is making reasonable efforts to effectuate the plan.

Modification of Prior Court Orders

After an order or legal agreement is entered and validated in a New York court, one or both spouses can request a modification of that court order. An application to modify a court order attempts to reexamine the original stipulations of the order, and requests that a new order be issued based on a change in circumstances.
Modification seeks a completely new order based on new circumstances that have arisen since the original order or agreement was issued.
There are many reasons why a person may seek a modification of an existing court order. Some common reasons for seeking a modification include:
If one spouse fails to comply with the terms outlined in the order or agreement
If there has been a change in circumstances since the order was originally created
There has been a drastic change in income or medical benefits
The parent's ability to care for the child has changed
The custody arrangement has been changed or needs to change
A person can seek a modification of court order for many areas of family law including child custody, child visitation, child support and alimony. Different types of family law modifications may include:
An increase or decrease in the amount of child or spousal support
An alteration in the time allocated for child visitation
A change in child support for more money for college, healthcare, and daycare
A change in child custody
Relocation of the primary custodial parent to a distant state.
Within the past year, we have seen a rather drastic increase in the number of relocation cases being litigated in the Staten Island Family Court and in Staten Island Supreme Court. If you are considering moving with your children to a distant state, or your ex-spouse or parent of your children have told you that they intend to move to a different state, it is vital that you immediately consult with an experienced Family Law attorney!
So learn your rights at an Initial Consultation. The fee is only $150 for up to 30 minutes, and if you hire our firm within 30 days, we will credit the Consultation fee of $150 back to your account! Appointments are available 6 days per week - Monday through Saturday for your convenience.
If you are filing for a modification of a prior court order, it is important to speak with an experienced Staten Island Family Law attorney.

Visitation

What Is an Order of Visitation?

A parent seeking to visit with a child may file a petition in Family Court against the person or persons who have custody of the child. Custody and visitation matters are often heard together within the same hearing, but a visitation petition may also be filed as a separate matter. Other family members, such as grandparents or siblings, may also file a petition seeking an order of visitation. The court will order visitation if it is in the child's best interests.
An order of visitation permits a non-custodial parent to have parenting time with the child or children on specified days or times. An example would be a visitation order that gave a parent the right to visit with the child "Every Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM away from the residence of the custodial parent".

Who May File a Petition for an Order of Visitation in Staten Island Family Court?

A parent, grandparent or a person with a substantial connection or relationship with the child may file a petition in Family Court requesting that the court award that person specifically designated visitation rights with a child. A copy of the petition and a summons must be served upon (delivered personally to) the person or parties who presently have custody of the child. If the child's parents are separated and one parent seeks a visitation order, that parent must have the papers served upon the other parent. If a non-parent is seeking visitation with the child, then both of the child's parents must be served.
There are no filing fees in Staten Island Family Court.

What Happens at the Hearing?

If the parties agree about visitation with the child, the judge may take testimony from both parties and enter an order of visitation on consent, without the need for a formal hearing. If the parties cannot reach an agreement about visitation, the court will hold a hearing, taking testimony from both sides, and may appoint a lawyer to represent the child. The court may order an investigation and report from a social services agency or mental health professional. After considering the evidence presented, the court may enter a custody order based upon what is in the child's best interests.
In Staten Island Family Court, a visitation case may be heard by a Family Court "Court Attorney-Referee", who may hear and decide the case and issue orders.

Must the Parties Have Lawyers to Represent Them?

The parties to visitation matters may represent themselves or hire lawyers. We recommend that any person who has a serious dispute involving custody or visitation should always consult Family Law attorneys who have substantial experience handling these matters. Our firm has over 30 years of experience handling difficult custody and visitation cases. Even if you are unsure about whether to hire an attorney to represent you in Staten Island Family Court, why not protect yourself by making an appointment for a confidential 30 minute consultation with an experienced Family Court attorney at our law firm - the cost is only $150? In some cases, when a party has little income and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the judge may appoint a lawyer at no cost. The judge may also appoint a lawyer to represent the child; this lawyer was formerly called a "law guardian", but now is referred to as the "attorney for the child".

Can a Custody or Visitation Order Be Changed?

Either party may file a petition to have a custody or visitation order modified (changed). The party seeking to have the order modified must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the original order was issued. The court holds a hearing to determine if a change is in the child's best interests.

What Happens If One Side Interferes with the Visitation That Was Ordered by the Court?

If a court order gives certain visitation rights to a party and the other party fails to obey the order, the complaining party may file a petition alleging a violation of the order. After the court holds a hearing, the judge may change the order and/or impose sanctions on the party who has failed to comply with the order.

Been served with a petition seeking visitation with your children?

If you have been served with a petition from Staten Island Family Court seeking an award of visitation with your child and you do not believe that such visitation would be in your child's best interests, we urge you to call our office immediately to make an appointment to meet with an experienced Family Law attorney. So learn your rights at an Initial Consultation. The fee is only $150 for up to 30 minutes, and if you hire our firm within 30 days, we will credit the Consultation fee of $150 back to your account! Appointments are available 6 days per week - Monday through Saturday for your convenience.