7 People to Know in New York Child Custody Cases

Your New York custody case may involve many professionals. Below, find a breakdown of what each does.

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County clerk

County clerks serve primarily as record keepers for county and supreme courts. They will collect your separation or divorce paperwork.

County clerks are appointed within New York City and elected elsewhere.

Court clerk

Court clerks work in both family court and supreme court. You may see them when you file paperwork or in the courtroom during your trial.

Court clerks have responsibilities beyond record keeping, such as swearing in witnesses and helping the judge prepare court orders.

Support magistrate

Unique to family court, support magistrates can hear and make orders in your child support or paternity case. They can also issue subpoenas and administer oaths in those cases.

Support magistrates have fewer powers than judges. For example, they cannot make custody orders. If a parent repeatedly violates an order made by a magistrate, the magistrate may refer the case to a judge.

Court attorney referee

In both courts, judges can assign court attorney referees to hear entire or partial cases and speed up timelines.

In some counties, referees report their findings to a judge, who makes the final decision.

In other counties, referees can issue orders themselves, as long as both parents consent in advance. Parents should carefully consider the decision to sign a stipulation giving consent, because changing a referee assignment afterward is difficult.

Court attorney

The court attorney is a lawyer who helps the judge by conducting legal research and writing decisions. Not to be confused with a court attorney referee, court attorneys do not have the authority to hear cases in place of a judge.

During court proceedings, you and your attorney may meet with a court attorney to discuss the possibility of settlement.

Attorney for the child

In some cases, the court appoints an attorney for the child, who acts as a voice for children too young to articulate wishes, and as an advocate for older children.

Some counties, such as Erie and Dutchess, appoint an attorney for the child in every custody case that goes to trial. Elsewhere, these attorneys are appointed in highly-contentious cases or when there are signs of abuse or neglect.

Attorneys for children litigate for child clients in the same way regular attorneys litigate for adults, submitting evidence and calling witnesses on the child's behalf.

The attorney for the child can have a big influence on the judge's decision because he or she has insight into the child's daily life. The attorney interviews the child, the parents and third parties such as teachers to help determine the best custody arrangement.

In divorce cases, the parents are responsible for paying the attorney for the child. The judge can order parents to split the costs evenly or unevenly. In family court, the state can pay for the attorney's services if the parents qualify based on income.

Guardian ad litem

The judge will assign a guardian ad litem (GAL) for parents who are unable to participate in the court process due to incapacitation or disability, as well as for very young or special needs children.

The guardian's role is to help resolve the case while protecting the client's best interest. For example, a GAL's duties might include helping an adult client understand a proposed parenting plan.

Although GALs are typically lawyers, they do not have legal power over their client's matters. Instead, they serve both the court and client, reporting back to the court on each action they perform in their role. If the client would like an attorney, the GAL can help find representation.

The judge may ask the GAL to make a recommendation about what would be best for the client. If the GAL and client disagree, the court will give more weight to the client's position, so long as it is in the child's best interest.

Professional technology

The professionals working on your case have many tools on hand. One of them is available to parents, too: Custody X Change.

With a parenting plan template, custody and visitation calendars, a digital journal and beyond, the Custody X Change app makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to custody and visitation

Take advantage of the technology the professionals use, and get what's best for your child.

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and visitation schedules.

Make My New York Plan Now

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and visitation schedules.

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