Every year, the Westchester County family court lawyers at our firm, Proto, Sachs & Brown, LLP, handle hundreds of family court cases. As our principal office is located in White Plains in Westchester County one of the first questions that our clients often ask our Westchester County family court lawyers is about the how the family court in Westchester County works and whether they need a lawyer to represent them. In light of this we have written this article for the benefit of anyone contemplating using the Westchester County Family Court.
Westchester County, like every county in New York, has a "family court". While theoretically the New York State Family Court is one court which sits in each county, as a practical matter the family court is treated and generally acts as a separate court in each county in New York. The Judges in each family court are elected or appointed in each county and each county maintains a separate court clerk. Court customs and procedure can vary from county to county although there are unifying factors as well such as the use of the same filing forms and court rules.
The Westchester County Family Court has 3 different locations within the county, White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle. Sometimes, each location is referred to as the "White Plains Family Court", the "Yonkers Family Court" or the "New Rochelle Family Court". However they are all part of the Westchester County Family Court which in turn is part of the New York State Family Court. One of the main reasons the Westchester County Family Court is divided into 3 locations is the fact that Westchester County has nearly one million residents and is bordered by New York City. It is a very busy family court.
The Westchester County Family Court has jurisdiction to hear the following types of matters:
- child custody and visitation proceedings
- child support matters
- spousal support matters
- child neglect and abuse proceedings
- foster care proceedings
- termination of parental rights
- paternity matters
- juvenile delinquency proceedings
- family offense proceedings (including orders of protection)
- Persons In Need of Supervision Proceedings (PINS proceedings)
Where to file a petition in the Westchester County Family Court
If you are contemplating filing a petition concerning any of the above matters it is important to know which location of the Westchester County Family Court to file in.
Westchester County Family Court (Yonkers): If you reside in Bronxville, Crestwood, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson, Tuckahoe or Yonkers you will file in the Yonkers location which is 53 South Broadway, 3rd Floor, Yonkers, New York.
Westchester County Family Court (New Rochelle): If you reside in Mount Vernon, New Rochelle or the Pelhams you will file in the New Rochelle location of the family court which is located at 420 North Broadway, 3rd Floor, New Rochelle, New York.
Westchester County Family Court (White Plains): If you reside in any other town, village, city in Westchester County other than one listed above then you would file in the White Plains location of the family court which is located at 111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., White Plains, New York.
If you do not reside in Westchester County: Using the above guide, you will file in the location where the "other party" resides.
The Necessity of hiring an Experienced Westchester County Family Court Lawyer
Typically, the first documents that is filed in the Westchester County Family Court is a document called a "Petition", i.e. a "custody petition", "child support petition" or "family offense petition". Once it is filed with the Westchester County Family Court it will have to be personally served upon the other party and then you and the other party will have to appear in the Westchester County Family Court before a judge or support magistrate (presides over child support cases). However, it is not a good idea to try and draft your own petition for filing with the court. There are very specific issues that need to be addressed in the petition and they need to be very artfully written by an experienced Westchester County family court lawyer so that your legal position is properly communicated and presented to the court. The petition is the very first document the judge reads and will often be the "first impression" that the court will have of your case. In such an important case, it is not only necessary but it is vital to have an experienced and proven Westchester County family court lawyer to draft your petition.
Proven and Dedicated Westchester County Family Court Lawyers
The Westchester County Family Court lawyers at our firm, with over 50 years of combined experience, are compassionate, experienced, proven and dedicated lawyers who have handled countless Westchester County family court matters for residents within Westchester County and for people across the country. We are proud of our success as family court lawyers in Westchester County and surrounding counties. However, we never measure our success by keeping a tally of our numerous family court victories. Instead we measure our success as Westchester County family court lawyers by our clients' satisfaction with our legal representation in its entirety.
As a continuing commitment to our clients our Westchester County Family Court lawyers offer free initial consultations for all family court matters in Westchester County and surrounding counties. Please call us at (914) 946-4808 or contact us online.
Q. Who gets custody of a child?
A. Unless the parents agree to a child custody arrangement, physical and legal custody, a judge using the "child's best interest" standard will make a decision on which parent shall have custody and the amount of access time a non-custodial parent will have.
Q. How to serve custody papers?
A. In New York custody papers must be personally served by any person not a party to the case over the age of 18 years old. Papers can not be mailed, emailed or left at a door. The person who served the papers must complete an affidavit of proper service, notarize the document and return it to the clerk of the court.
Q. Are child custody records public?
A. No, those records are confidential. New York maintains a website of all family court cases but none of the parties names appear on the website. The website only contains file and docket numbers. Attorney's names are public information.
Q. Can child custody be modified?
A. Yes, child custody can be modified by a showing of a change in circumstances and the court will also need to determine if a change in custody is in the child's best interests.
Q. What is child custody interference?
A. Any attempt by a parent to alienate a child from the other parent is interference. This includes making disparaging remarks about a parent, scheduling events during a parent's access time and not communicating about a child's wellbeing. Other examples include, brainwashing and having the child call another person mom or dad.
Q. How much are child custody lawyers?
A. Most child custody lawyers charge an hourly rate for their services. The total lawyer fees is dependant upon the complexity and length of the litigation. A deposit called an initial retainer is necessary and the case is billed at the hourly rate against that initial retainer.
Q. Can a child decide custody?
A. All children are represented by a court appointed lawyer. This lawyer advocates for the child. Depending on the age and maturity of a child they can make decisions regarding child custody and visitation.