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Where To Find Family Court Records In New York?

In New York, family court records available at the courthouse where the case was heard. The public may access these records in person at the Record Room of the courthouse, or online via the New York State Unified Court System E-court Portal.

Each county in New York State and borough in New York City has a family court. Apart from Support and Paternity cases, which are heard by support magistrates, all family court cases are heard by a judge. Although the family court oversees legal family matters, it does not grant divorces.

The family court was established to oversee and take action in a wide range of legal matters involving parents, children, and spouses. Under New York’s Family Court Act, the family court has exclusive jurisdiction over some family cases; and exercises concurrent jurisdiction with the criminal court over some family offenses.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What Is Family Law In New York?

Articles of the New York State Domestic Relations Law provides guidelines for different aspects of family relationships. These include:

  • Marriage: Article 2, Article 3, and Article 4 of the Domestic Relations Law address the rules guiding:
    • The solemnization of a marriage
    • The validity or voidability of marriages
    • The duties of all the parties involved, including the husband, the wife, clergymen, and government officials
    • Religious exceptions
    • Marriage of minors
    • The rights and liabilities of the husband and wife
  • Child Custody and Guardianship: Article 5 and Article 6 highlight the guidelines for matters about children such as:
    • The legitimacy of children born by artificial insemination
    • Custody and visitation rights
    • Natural guardianship
    • The appointment of guardians
    • Trust fund management by guardians
    • Other duties of a guardian
  • Adoption and child surrogacy: Article 7 and Article 8 contain the state laws on adoption and surrogacy matters, which include:
    • Adoption from authorized agencies
    • Private placement adoptions
    • Effects of adoption
    • Surrogacy policies
    • Parental rights and status
    • Penalties

Articles 9 - 13 address laws governing the annulment or voidance of a marriage, separation, and divorce.

What Are Family Court Cases And Records In New York?

Types of cases heard in the New York State Family Court include:

  • Juvenile delinquency cases
  • Support proceedings
  • Paternity proceedings
  • Special provisions relating to paternity establishment and support enforcement
  • Uniform interstate family support act
  • The parentage of children conceived through surrogacy or artificial reproductive means
  • Parental rights, guardianship, adoption, and custody
  • Child protection and supervision
  • Family offenses
  • Conciliation
  • Child placement and foster care
  • Destitute children
  • Appeals

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary

Are Family Court Cases Public Records In New York?

Typically, family court trials are open to the public. However, the presiding judge or support magistrate may decide to exclude the public from the courtroom in a family law case. Such exclusion depends on the nature of the case. Records of family court cases are not publicly accessible in New York where except permitted by law or court order. Copies of records are available to persons directly involved in the case and other persons authorized by law.

As with other court records that contain information about children, juvenile records and custody records are not available for public inspection. Divorce records are also sealed and are not publicly accessible in New York. Only eligible applicants, such as the parties directly involved in the case, their attorneys, or persons otherwise authorized by court order, may obtain copies of the records. Divorce records are not family court records in New York, as the family court does not grant divorces.

How Do I Find Family Court Records In New York?

To find records of family court proceedings in New York, eligible persons may request copies from the Clerk of the Family Court where the case was heard. Requestors may use the directory on the New York judicial website to determine the location of any family court in the state. Select the appropriate county on the page to view the contact details of the courthouse and the Clerk of Court office.

Requests must be specific and contain as much information as necessary to correctly identify the record being requested. Records may also be inspected in person at the Clerk of the Court or requested by mail. State-issued valid Identifications are required to process family court records requests.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?

Family court records may be found online via the Web Family portal on the New York State Unified Court System E-court website. This portal provides case information on active Family Court and Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) court disputes in all counties. Case information may be searched using the case’s docket number or file number. For old family court records, the requestor may visit the Clerk of Court office to inspect or obtain a copy.

What Is The New York Custody Law?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides guidelines for child visitation and custody in New York state. These guidelines put the child’s protection and safety first and ensure that homicide and domestic violence offenders have restricted access to children to the extent permitted by law.

Custody, otherwise referred to as parenting, is the legal right of a parent to control the raising of their child(ren). Consequent upon divorce, parents who are not awarded custody rights may be awarded visitation rights, which allow them to spend time with the child(ren).

In deciding custody, a judge will take into consideration the best interest of the child, and this includes factors such as:

  • The quality of each parent’s home and environment
  • The current primary caregiver of the child
  • The emotional, intellectual, financial, and mental fitness of the parents to look after the child
  • The age of the child
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is aged 12 or older
  • Any history of violence or abuse from each parent
  • The parents’ work schedules
  • The child’s relationship with siblings and other family members
  • The ability of a parent to encourage and foster a relationship between the child and the other parent

Custody may be awarded to either or both of the parents - this is known as joint custody.

In some cases, custody may be awarded to a person other than the parents. This is referred to as third-party custody. Here the child may live with other relatives such as siblings, grandparents, uncles, or aunts. Generally, parents whose children are sent to live with third-parties are the ones participating in rehabilitation programs for drug or alcohol use, or anger management programs before their custody rights are re-evaluated.

Where the court determines that it is unsafe for the child to be left alone with one parent, usually the non-custodial parent, visitation may be supervised by a member of the family court or mental health professional.

If the custodial parent or the child becomes a victim of domestic violence, the victim may file for an Order of Protection from the perpetrator. Such persons may also apply and enroll in New York’s Address Confidentiality Program to keep their address from being revealed in court documents. These persons may also fill and submit an Address Confidentiality Affidavit to the Family Court Clerk.

For privacy reasons, records of proceedings involving children, such as custody records, are not available to the public.

How To Find Family Court Lawyers In New York?

The New York State Court System has some Lawyer Locator tools on its website to help citizens find appropriate legal assistance. Interested persons with family disputes may use the tools to locator a family court attorney nearby.

Persons who can afford full legal services may use the referral services of the New York State Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association. The requestor will need to choose family law as the practice area in completing a request via these online referral services. Similarly, indigent citizens may visit the LawHelp website to find family lawyers offering pro bono services in a city nearby.

Note some courthouses in the state have volunteer lawyer programs. Residents may visit their local courthouse to seek the free advice of these lawyers.

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