Family Court Overview



The Family Court of the State of New York was established to take action in the lives of children, parents and spouses. The court has a wide range of powers to fit the particular needs of the people who come before it.

The Family Court Act gives the Family Court power to hear certain types of cases. As each case is filed in the court, it is assigned its own identifying number, called a docket number. The docket number begins with a letter which tells the type of case filed. For example, a paternity case is given a docket number beginning with the letter "P".

In New York City, each of the five boroughs has its own Family Court. Generally, a case may be filed without fee in the county where one of the parties lives.

Most Family Court hearings (trials) are heard by judges. Support magistrates hear support and paternity cases. There are no juries in Family Court: the judge or support magistrate conducts a hearing and decides the case.

The Family Court is generally open to the public, in addition to those persons who are directly involved with a particular case. However, the judge or support magistrate presiding over each case has the authority to exclude the public from the courtroom depending upon the nature of the case or the privacy interests of the parties.

Persons who have been scheduled to appear in court are expected to arrive at the courthouse on time. If a party (a person who has a direct involvement with a case) is not present when the case is called into the courtroom, the judge or support magistrate may proceed and decide the case in that person's absence, or may dismiss it. Parties should understand that although they arrive early, they may be required to spend a lengthy period of time at the courthouse.

Each Family Court building has a child waiting area, where children may wait while a case is being heard in court. Indeed, in the Family courthouses in Bronx, Kings, New York and Queens counties, there are supervised Children's Centers which provide free drop in child care for parents who must use the court.

After a case has been completed and a final decision has been made, each party has the right to appeal the judge's decision, asking a higher court to review the evidence and any testimony presented at the Family Court hearing. (Decisions made by support magistrates are appealed first by filing an objection to the decision; a Family Court judge reviews the support magistrates' decision and order.) An appeal may result in a decision being affirmed (left as it is), or modified (changed somewhat), or reversed (changed entirely).

The court records of Family Court proceedings are not open to public inspection. However, the court may permit access to records where appropriate. Persons directly involved with a case who wish to obtain a copy of a court order may request a copy at the Record Room of the courthouse where the case was heard; proof of the person's identity is required.

Each Family Court in New York City is open all day from Monday through Friday, except on holidays. At lunchtime, the parts (hearing rooms) within each courthouse close for a lunch recess, but certain areas of each building remain open to the public. Specific information on hours may be obtained by calling the courthouse.

Additionally, each Family Court in New York City is comprised of three operational divisions, which are responsible for managing day to day operations. These divisions provide specific services to our court users as described below.

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Help Center

The goal of the Help Center is to make it easier for the public to use the Family Court. Help Center staff provide legal information and other assistance--- but not legal advice --- to court users who do not have lawyers.

Help Center staff assist with the filing of certain types of petitions in NYC Family Court. These Family Court petitions include:

  • Family Offense (Order of Protection)
  • Visitation and Custody of Children
  • Guardianship
  • Child or Spousal Support
  • Paternity
  • Interstate Support (UIFSA)

The Help Center can also provide information on other court services, such as the Custody/Visitation Mediation Program and the Children's Center as well as other resources.

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Child Protective/ Permanency Planning Office

The Permanency Planning office was created to manage and monitor the filing of Child Protective cases filed in the New York City Family Courts. Permanency Planning offices also monitor the Juvenile Delinquency and Persons In Need of Supervision cases filed in N.Y.C. Family Courts.

Additional functions include:

  • Child Protective Proceedings
  • Guide for parents for a child in foster care
  • Foster Care Placement
  • Family Treatment Court
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Adoptions
  • Juvenile Delinquency/Designated felonies
  • Persons In Need of Supervision

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Hearings& Orders

The Courtroom Activity office manages the staffing needs of our trial court parts. It also monitors the scheduling of our courtroom's trial calendars and the completion of court orders.

Additional functions include:

  • Court Reporter/Transcription Services
  • Interpreting Services
  • Appeals
  • Subpoenaed records

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Docket Number System

The NYC Family Court docket number system begins with a letter which tells the type of case filed:

  • A: Adoption
  • B: Permanent termination of parental rights
  • D: Juvenile delinquency
  • E: Designated Felony
  • F: Child or spousal support
  • G: Guardianship
  • K: Destitute Child
  • L: Voluntary Foster Care Approval
  • M: Marriage Application
  • NN and NA: Neglect / Abuse
  • O: Family offense (order of protection)
  • P: Paternity
  • S: PINS (Person in Need of Supervision)
  • U: Interstate support
  • V: Visitation and custody of children

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