Family Court Terms / Glossary


See also: Law Library Glossaries of Legal Terms.



#  A


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18B Attorney - An attorney assigned by the court to represent a party in the Family Court. The assignment is made under County Law Sec. 18b.


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Acknowledgment of Paternity - A voluntary written statement made by the mother and biological father in which they admit that the man is the father of the child. A properly executed statement has the same legal effect as a court order. (See attached .pdf Sample Copy)



Adjournment In Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) - Adjournment of a proceeding, for a specified period of time, usually six months. If the conditions of ACD are met, then the petition may be dismissed in the furtherance of justice.

Adjournment- The rescheduling of a proceeding or a court case until a specified future date.

Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)- A New York City agency charged with investigating allegations of child abuse/neglect, encouraging family stability and when necessary, the placing of children in foster care and/or adoption.

Adoption- Legal proceeding whereby a person or persons take a child or other person as their own child and thereby acquires the rights and incurs the responsibilities of a parent. ( more >> )

Affiant - Person who prepares and signs an affidavit.

Affidavit - Written statement made under oath.

Allocution - When the court advises a party of all of his or her rights, charges, as well as possible outcomes of a matter.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)- ways to resolve disputes without a trial. Typical ADR processes include mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, and collaborative law. These processes are generally confidential, less formal, and less stressful than traditional court proceedings.

Amicus Curiae (“Friend of the Court”) - A person who is not a party to an action but is permitted by the court to present his/her views.

Appeal - A proceeding to have a case examined by an appropriate higher court to see if a lower court’s decision was made correctly according to law. Appeals to Family Court proceedings are heard in Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. (See How to File an Appeal to a NYC Family Court Order) -

Appearance - The participation in the proceedings by a party in an action, either in person, by electronic means or through an attorney.

Appellant - The party who takes an appeal to a higher court.

Appellee - The party against whom an appeal is taken.

A&R statement - An accounts and records statement made by the Support Collection Unit (SCU) detailing the payments made and money owed under an order of support.

Archives - A secure facility where old records and files are stored for safekeeping.

Arrears- In child/spousal support proceedings monies owed as a result of the respondent’s failure to make payments in accordance with a court order.

ASFA - Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 - Federal Law that established national goals and requirements for children in the child welfare system safety, permanency and well-being.

Assigned Counsel - See 18B Attorney.

Assignment Judge - The Judge that oversees courtroom in which new cases first appear on a court calendar for service, allocution, adjournments, assignment of counsel and/or issuance of temporary orders.

Assignment Part - The courtroom in which new cases first appear on a court calendar for service, allocution, adjournments, assignment of counsel and/or issuance of temporary orders.

Attorney for Child - Lawyer assigned by the court to act as a child’s attorney.

Attorney of Record - Attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case.

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B  C


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Bench Conference - A meeting between the attorneys and the judge at the judge’s bench to discuss an issue in the case or an aspect of the proceedings. It may or may not be part of the official record.

Bronx Defenders - Attorneys and certified social workers who represent and provide services to parents in certain Family Court cases.

Brooklyn Family Defense Project - Attorneys and certified social workers who represent and provide services to parents in certain Family Court cases.


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Calendar - A listing of a the court’s scheduled cases for a specific date.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) - A New York City agency of non-attorneys who work in aid of children in foster care.

Caseworker - A person assigned to assist families and, if a proceeding is instituted, to testify about those efforts. Caseworkers may work for an agency.

Center for Family Representation - Attorneys and certified social workers who represent and provide services to parents in certain Family Court cases.

Certified Copy- Copy of a document signed and certified as a true copy by the officer, usually the Clerk of Court, having custody of the original or by other authorized person.

Change in Circumstances (CIC) - Term often used as a basis for modifying a court order.

Change of Venue - The removal of a proceeding begun in one county or district to another county or district for trial.

Child Abuse (NA Petition)- Where parent or person legally responsible for the care or custody of a child (less than 18 years of age) is responsible for such child and inflicts or allows physical injury or a sex offense to be inflicted upon such child, as defined in the penal law. ( more >>)

Child Neglect (NN Petition)- Where parent or person legally responsible for the care or custody of a child (less than 18 years of age) is responsible for such child lack of proper care, including those where the child suffers psychological or physical damage for any reason. ( more >>)

Child Protective Agency - An agency authorized by state law to protect the well- being of children. In NYC that agency is the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Children's Law Center- Attorneys and certified social workers who represent and provide services to children in Custody/Visitation cases.

Child Support Enforcement Term of the Family Court (CSET)- A special term within the New York City Family Court located in New York County which handles child support including, the establishment and enforcement, of child support orders and paternity establishment, when the child requiring support receives public assistance. As of January 2009, all such public assistance cases within NYC are handled in the New York County Family Court.

Collaborative Law - process in which a couple hires specially-trained lawyers and other professionals who work to help them resolve their conflict out of court.

Commissioner of Juvenile Justice (CJJ)- See Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)

Conformed Copy- A copy of a document with written confirmation that is an exact duplicate of the original. Also see Certified Copy.

Consent to Marry (M Petition) - The marriage of a minor, who is at least 14 years of age and less than 16 years of age, must have the consent of the court.

Contempt of Court - An act or omission tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice or to impair the dignity of the Court or respect for its authority.

Corporation Counsel (Presentment Agency) - A New York City agency which presents the case in support of a petition in a juvenile delinquency or designated felony case and which represents petitioners in Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) cases.

Court Attorney Referee - Quasi - Judicial officer empowered to hear and determine proceedings in Family Court upon referral by a judge and consent of the parties. In cases where consent is not given, Court Attorney Referees, upon referral by a judge, are empowered to hear and report.

Court Liaison Officer (CLO) - Probation officer assigned to the court. This term is sometimes used to describe Administration of Children Service case workers assigned to the court or an individual courtroom.

Custodial Parent - The parent who takes care of a child on a daily basis and has physical custody of the child.

Custody (V Petition)- Petition seeking to obtain an order granting custody of a child. The same petition type is to be used to obtain visitation with a child by a non-custodial parent. (more >>)

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D  E  F


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Default - A default occurs when a party fails to plead or otherwise defend within the time allowed or fails to appear at a court appearance.

De Novo - From the beginning; a new trial.

Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)- A New York City agency responsible for the Non-Secure (NSD) and Secure detention of Juvenile Delinquents whose cases are pending before the Family Court or awaiting transfers to other facilities.

Deposition - Sworn written testimony of a witness usually made outside of the courtroom.

Designated Felony Acts (E Petition)- Certain serious violent-act crimes allegedly committed by a 13, 14 or 15 year-old. ( more >> )

Dismissed - The termination of a proceeding for a procedurally prescribed reason.

Dismissed With Prejudice - Action dismissed, after hearing, on the merits and may not be renewed for the same cause of action. Cases dismissed with prejudice may be appealed.

Dismissed Without Prejudice (DWOP)- Action dismissed, with or without a hearing. Cases dismissed without prejudice may be re-instituted or re-filed.

Disposition - The court’s final decision or resolution of the relief requested on the current petition.

District Attorney - An attorney deputized as chief prosecutor whose official duty is to conduct criminal proceedings on behalf of the people against person accused of committing criminal offenses.

Docket Number - Numbers sequentially assigned to new cases filed in the court used to identify each case.

Domicile - A person’s primary or permanent residence.

Domestic Relations Law - (DRL).

Department of Social Services - (DSS) - See Human Resources Administration.


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Exploration of Placement (EOP) - a pre-dispositional directive by the Court to the Probation Department in Juvenile Delinquency and PINS cases to find a suitable place where a child can be placed.

et al - An abbreviation of et alia meaning “and others.”.

Ex Parte - An application to the court made without notice to other parties; an application of only one party.

Expunge - The authorized act of removing and destroying information, in files, computers or other depositories.

Extra Judicial Surrender - A written surrender of a child by a parent which is not executed and acknowledged before a judge, but executed before witnesses from an authorized agency.


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Fact-Finding Hearing - The hearing in Family Court where it will be decided if the charges are proven.

Family Court Legal Services - Office in the Administration of Children Services which provides legal services on behalf of cases brought by the Commissioner of Social Services.

Family Offense (O Petition)- A proceeding instituted in the Family Court alleging that a petitioner who is related to the respondent by blood or marriage (including former marriages) or who have a child in common has been hurt, threatened, harassed or stalked by the respondent. (more >>).

Family Court Act (FCA).

Family Treatment Court (FTC) - A special program designed to help respondents and their children get back together and stay together. This program is designed to service individuals who have a neglect case against them with alcohol or substance abuse allegations.

FET (Full Evaluation and Testing) - Court ordered psychological and or psychiatric examination.

Foster Care- Care provided by an authorized child care agency to a child who has been removed from his/her home by court order or voluntarily by a parent. (more >>).

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G  H  I  J


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Genetic Marker Test - Order by the Court which requires an alleged father, mother and child to submit to certain medical testing to determine parentage of a child born out of wedlock. Any result of 98% or more probability of paternity is sufficient proof of paternity.

Guardian - In the New York City Family Court, person to whom letters of guardianship have been issued for minor person (under the age of 18 years).

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) - Person appointed by a court to represent a minor or incompetent for purpose of litigation; person does not act as an attorney.

Guardianship (G petition)- Control or manage of the person or property, or both, of another who is incapable of acting for himself/herself. A guardianship proceeding in the Family Court only deals with the guardianship of the person, not the person’s property. (more >>).


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Habeas Corpus - “You have the body,” the name given a variety of writs whose object is to bring a person before a court or judge.

Human Resources Administration (HRA)- HRA/DSS is New York City Agency that oversees NYC’s welfare reform initiatives, programs and projects.


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Income or Payroll Deduction Order (IDO or PDO) - An order directing that the payor’s employer garnish the so ordered child support obligation, including arrears and forward directly to the payee orders without support enforcement services.

Income Execution Order (IEO or IEX) - An administrative order by the Support Collection Unit (SCU) directing that the payor’s employer deduct the so ordered child support obligation, including arrears from person’s paycheck on orders payable thru SCU.

Imputing Income - This occurs in support proceedings when the parent is unemployed or underemployed (not working a full workweek or working lower than usual paying job) and the court calculates the parent’s gross income based upon past earnings or ability.

Incapacitated Person - Any person who, for any cause, is incapable to adequately protect his/her rights, although not judicially declared an incompetent.

Income Withholding - Taking of money pursuant to court order or by SCU without court order from the non-custodial parents’ paycheck to pay his or her child support.

Inquest - A proceeding in the Family Court where the respondent, after having been provided due notice, fails to appear, and the petitioner alone introduce testimony.

Intake - First court proceeding in Family Court where the petition is read and charges/demands explained.

I&R - Investigation and Report - A court ordered report requesting the Probation Department or Administration of Children’s service to investigate the parties of case and prepare a written report for the adjourn date. The investigation usually includes interviews with the parties and/or children and possibly a home visit. This report may also be called a court ordered investigation (COI).


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Juvenile Rights Division (JRD) - An office of the Legal Aid Society which provides legal representation (Attorney for Child) to children in Family Court cases.

Judgment - Decision or determination of a court.

Judicial Surrender (AS petition)- A surrender of a child to an authorized agency for the purpose of adoption which is executed and acknowledged before a judge of the Family Court or a Surrogate in this state.

Jurisdiction - Legal power, right and authority to hear and decide cases; geographical area within which authority may be exercised.

Juvenile Delinquent (D petition)- A person over 7 and less than 16 who is found to have committed an act that would be a crime if it were done by an adult and is also found to require either supervision, confinement or treatment. (more >>).

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K  L  M  N


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Kinship Foster Care - Foster care placement with a family member.


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Legal Aid Society (LAS) - A New York City Agency that provides legal representation as Attorneys for Child to children in certain Family Court cases.

Lawyers for Children (LFC) - Attorneys and certified social workers, who provide services to children as Attorneys for Child in foster care review and termination of paternal rights proceedings.


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Mediation - a voluntary and confidential process where you and the other parent work with a neutral mediator to create your own parenting plan.

Mental Health Study/Mental Health Services (MHS) - The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Division of Mental Hygiene Services (Division or DMH), is responsible for administering contracting actions related to mental health services for adults, adolescents and children.

Minor/Infant - Any child under the age of 18 years in the State of New York.

Motion - Application to a court for an order, ruling or decision.

Motion Granted - An order granting a specific relief requested in a motion.

Motion To Dismiss - An application to the court requesting an the dismissal of a petition.

Movant - The party who initiates a motion.


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New York State Child Abuse & Maltreatment Central Registry - A New York State agency responsible for maintaining all reports of alleged child abuse and maltreatment are recorded.

Non-custodial Parent - The parent who does not live with a child.

Notice of Appeal - Written notice of intent to appeal a decision/order of a Family Court judge. An appeal shall be taken by filing the original notice of appeal with the clerk of the Family Court in which the order was made.

Nunc Pro Tunc - “Now for then,” presently considered as if occurring at an earlier date, effective retroactively.

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O  P


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Objection To Support Magistrate’s Order - A specific written objection to an order made by a Support Magistrate. A review of such objection must be made by a judge. (more >>).

Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) - A division of the Administration of Children’s Services that provides custodians of children assistance in obtaining support, including financial and medical, establishing paternity and support obligations and enforcing such court orders.

Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) - The New York State agency which administers the institutional placement of minors after juvenile delinquency findings.

Order Modified - An order is modified when the Court changes the conditions or terms of an order made by a court.

Order of Filiation (OF) - An order by the court legally declaring the a male party the biological father of a child, usually done on the basis of the filing of a paternity petition.

Order of Protection (OP)- Order prohibiting a person from harming or threatening another.

Order of Support (OS) - An order directing payments of child support or combined child and spousal support.

Order of Support Reinstated - An order reinstating an order of support previously suspended by the court.

Order of Support Suspended - A temporary suspension of an order of support.

Order of Support Terminated - An order that terminates an order of support based on findings of the court.

Order of Visitation - Order which provides that the person who has custody of a child(ren) must allow the non-custodial parent or another person to visit the child(ren) on specific days and times.

Order to Produce (OTP) - An order directing a state or city Commissioner of Corrections to produce an inmate for a court appearance.

Order to Show Cause (OTSC) - An order made upon motion of one party (ex-parte) requiring the other party to appear and present reasons and objections (show cause) to the court against issuance of a proposed order. An OTSC is an accelerated method of bringing a matter before the court and may contain a proposed temporary order.

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) - A New York State agency responsible for overseeing child support initiatives statewide.


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PaternityPetition - A petition to have a court determine if a man is the biological father of a child born out-of-wedlock. (more >>).

Permanency Planning Hearing - Hearing involving a child in foster care, court ordered or voluntary, to establish time frames for the return of the child to his/her home or other permanency plans, including adoption.

Permanent Neglect - An allegation by an agency responsible for a child in foster care that believes that the child’s parents have not kept in contact, and have not planned for the child’s future.

Person in Need of Supervision (PINS)- A person under the age of 18 who does not attend school and/or behaves in a way that is dangerous or out of control and/or often disobeys parents, guardians or other authorities.

(more >>).


Petition - A signed, formal written request to a Family Court, that starts a case and asks for specific assistance from the court.

Petition Transferred - An order directing that a petition be transferred to another venue.

Petitioner - The person or agency filing the petition.

Placement - The commitment or assignment of a person to a facility or to any supervisory, care or treatment program.

Prima Facie Case - A case sufficient on its face and supported by the requisite minimum of evidence.

Probation - Conditional freedom granted by a judicial officer to a juvenile in a Juvenile Delinquency or Person In Need of Supervision case, or to an adult in certain other proceedings, as long as the person meets certain conditions of behavior.

Pro Se - Any person who represents himself/herself in a court proceeding. In New York City Family Court, these persons are called “self-represented litigants”.

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Q  R  S


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Rebuttal - A written response by a party to a written objection filed by the other party to a final order of a Support Magistrate.

Registration of Out of State Order of Support - When the duty of support for child or spouse or former spouse is based upon a support order of another state, the petitioner may in accordance with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, register that support order in a court of this state by transmitting certain required documents to the Clerk of Court.

Remand To ACS (Administration of Children’s Services) - The temporary removal of a child during the pendency of a PINS or neglect/abuse proceeding. During that period, the child is remanded to the Administration of Children’s Services for custodial care.

Remittitur - Process by which an appellate court legally returns a case which was appealed to the court from which it was appealed, together with its decision, for such further action and entry of judgment as is required by the decision of the Appellate Court.

Respondent - The person who formally answers the allegations stated in a petition which has been filed in court.


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Self-Represented Litigant - An individual who comes to Family Court to file a petition (or other application) and who has no attorney. (Also referred to as a “pro se” litigant.)

Service of Process - providing the other party in a proceeding with the legal notice that a proceeding has been instituted and when and where to appear in court.

Settle Order - To conclude a lawsuit by agreement of the parties, usually by compromise.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC).

Special Assistant Corporation Counsel for the Commissioner of Social Services - attorneys who represent the interests of the Commissioner of Social Services in proceedings brought in Child Support Enforcement Term.

Social Services Law (SSL).

Statute of Limitations - Law which declares that actions of a specified kind be commenced after a specified period of time from when the cause of action occurred.

Stipulation - An agreement by attorneys or parties on opposite sides of a case as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings or trial.

Subpoena - A direction of the court, issued by an attorney or the court, commanding a person to appear in court.

Subpoena Duce Tecum - A subpoena commanding a person to produce in court, certain designated documents or records.

Summons - Notice for a person to appear in court at a specified time and place to answer a legal action against them.

Support Collection Unit (SCU)- A branch of Human Resources Administration which collects, accounts for, and disburses funds paid pursuant to an order of support.

Support Magistrate - Quasi-Judicial officer empowered to hear and determine support issues in support, paternity and interstate support proceedings.

Support Petition (F)- A petition filed to determine who is legally responsible for the support of a child, spouse or relative and how much support should be paid. (more >>).

Suspended Judgment - A dispositional order which sets conditions for a specific duration which allows a respondent an opportunity to make corrective action that may result in the matter being dismissed.

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T  U  V  W


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Temporary Order of Support (TOS) - An interim order issued during the pendency of a court case concerning the payment of support.

Terminate Parental Rights (B Petition)- When an agency responsible for a child in foster care believes that the child’s parents have not kept in contact, have not planned for the child’s future, have abandoned or abused the child or are mentally ill or developmentally disabled in a way that may harm the child, the agency can file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the parents. (more >>).


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Undertaking - A directive by the court requiring the respondent to either post a surety or deposit cash with the court or the Support Collection Unit to insure compliance with a court order of support.

Upon Default - Done by omission, failure or absence of a party to the action.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) - A proceeding which provides the court with the ability to deal with interstate custody and/or visitation matters.


Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)- A proceeding to secure support for dependent spouses and children from persons legally responsible for their support and found to be in another state, the District of Columbia, US Territories, the Dominion of Canada, and some foreign countries.


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Venue - The particular county, city or geographical area in which a court with jurisdiction may hear and determine a case.

Verification - A sworn statement by a person signing a petition that the statements made in the petition are true.

Visitation Petition (V)- Proceeding which requests the right to visit with child(ren). (more >>).

Voluntary Foster Care Placement (L Petition)- A court review of the voluntary placement of a child by a parent who is unable to care for a child. (more >>).


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Waiver - An intentional and voluntary relinquishment of some known right.

Warrant - An order issued by the court directing police or peace officers to arrest and/or produce a respondent and/or child.

Willfulness Hearing - Conducted in spousal or child support proceedings to determine if the respondent intentionally and wilfully failed to obey a lawful order of support.

Writ - An order issued from a court of justice requiring the performance of a specified act, or giving authority and commission to have it done.

Writ of Habeas Corpus - An order issued by the court directing that a person be produced in Family Court immediately. This order generally requires the assistance of a peace officer.

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