Family Court - Types of Cases Heard




Support Magistrate
Natalie Carraway

New York State Division of Child Support Collection Unit
A wife, husband, relative, the Department of Social Services or certain other authorized agencies can bring a support petition in Family Court to have the court decide who is legally responsible for the support of a child, spouse or relative and how much support should be paid. When the person charged with support lives in another country, state or county, a Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) petition is filed. All parties in a support case have a right to a hearing.

The person charged with failing to obey (violating) a support order also has a right to a hearing. The judge will decide how much support will be ordered to be paid after deciding whether the person charged is responsible for support. To be sure support payments are made, the judge may order a payroll deduction or seizing of property or a judgment. If an order of support is disobeyed, the judge may send the person to jail.

If you have any questions regarding child support, contact:

Lewis County Support Collection Unit
Outer Stowe Street
P.O. Box 193
Lowville, NY 13367
Phone: 315-376-5400
E-mail: [email protected]

If you are directed to mail a check or money order for support:

SCU Lewis County
P.O. Box 15323
Albany, NY 12212-5353

Additional Resource:

New York State Division of Child Support Enforcement

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Custody & Visitation

Having custody of a child means that a person is legally responsible for the care of the child. Visitation rights are sometimes given by the court to people who no longer have custody of their child, but have the court's permission to see the child at certain times.

The judge, after hearing all sides of the case, will decide who should have custody of the child, and sign an official court paper called a custody order.

The judge may also sign an order of visitation, which is an official court paper saying that the person who has custody must allow another person to visit the child under certain circumstances.

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Family Offense

A family offense petition may claim that a person hurt or threatened a member of his or her family or household. After the petition is filed, a judge may sign an official court paper called a Temporary Order of Protection. This orders the person charged to immediately stop harming or threatening the family or household member and may even order a family member to be removed from the home. The Temporary Order of Protection remains in effect for 6 months or until the court makes another order, whichever comes first.

A family offense petition follows the same steps as discussed above: Initial appearance, fact-finding hearing and dispositional hearing. If the allegations of the petition are proved at the fact-finding hearing, the judge may consider different alternatives at the dispositional hearing when determining what should be done. For example, a Permanent Order of Protection may be issued to replace the Temporary Order of Protection. A Permanent Order of Protection remains in effect for a year and violation of its terms may result in the court ordering a jail sentence of up to six months. A judge may also grant custody to one party and/or determine whether visitation is appropriate and under what conditions.

NYS Help Lines

Additional Resources:

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Juvenile Delinquents

A juvenile delinquent is a person between the ages of 7 and 16 who commits an act that would be a crime (a misdemeanor or felony) if it were done by an adult. A 13, 14, or 15 year old who commits certain serious, violent acts may be treated as an adult in a criminal court or the criminal court may remove the case back to Family Court. In these serious cases where the actions are called designated felony acts, the District Attorney's Office will be the agency who presents the case against the juvenile.

If the case will be heard in Family Court, a date and a time will be set for an Initial Appearance. The case will then proceed as discussed above -- through fact-finding and dispositional hearings.

If the facts alleged in the petition are proved and the child found to be a juvenile delinquent, there are several options available to a judge at the dispositional hearing. A juvenile delinquent may be confined in an institution, placed in a group home, put under probation supervision or may be granted a conditional discharge.

If the judge decides that the child is a juvenile delinquent, there is no criminal record against the child. However, Family Court, Probation and police records exist.

Additional Resources:

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Persons in Need of Supervision

A person in need of supervision (PINS) is a person between the ages of 7 and 18 who does any or all of the following:

  • does not attend school;
  • behaves in a way that is dangerous or out of control;
  • often disobeys parents, guardians, or other authorities; and/or
  • possesses alcohol or illegal drugs.

A PINS petition may be filed (once written permission has been received from the Probation Department) to ask the Court at the dispositional hearing to order treatment or supervision for the child. Like a Juvenile Delinquent, a PINS may be confined in an institution, placed in a group home, put under probation supervision, or may be granted a conditional discharge.

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Abuse & Neglect of Children

Child abuse and neglect petitions may charge that the parent, guardian or a person legally responsible for a child has neglected or abused the child. Neglect and abuse may include causing emotional or physical harm or risk of harm to the child. It may also include failing to protect a child from harm caused by other people. The charge of abuse or neglect must be proven at a fact-finding hearing held in Family Court. If the case is not proved, the child must be returned to the parent or guardian. If the court finds that abuse or neglect occurred, it may issue an order requiring the removal of the child from the home for a period of up to twelve months. The order may also direct the parent or guardian to participate in programs and services designed to help eliminate the problems that caused the abuse or neglect. At the end of twelve months, the child may be returned home, the Department of Social Services may ask for an extension of the child's placement or the Department of Social Services may file a petition to terminate parental rights.

A child may also be removed from the home before a petition is filed. This may happen when a child is in a situation that is a danger to the child's life or health. If a child is removed from the home before a petition is filed, the parent must be notified immediately. The Department of Social Services must then promptly file a petition in Family Court. The parent or guardian of the child may request an expedited court hearing, called a Return of Child hearing, to decide whether the child should be returned to the home.

Sometimes a child is removed from a home with the permission of the parent or guardian. Unless the parent or guardian has signed a paper allowing removal, the party has a right to a hearing on the child's removal from home.

Additional Resources:

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