Family Court

How Do You Start a Family Court Case?

To start a family court case, you must first file a petition. In that petition, you must tell the judge all the facts and reasons why the judge should grant your petition.

In your petition, you are required by law to prove certain “elements” which would enable the judge to grant your petition. If you do not provide the necessary facts in your petition, then your petition will be dismissed and you’ll have to restart your case.


Once you have prepared your petition, you will file it with the Family Court clerk. At that time, the Court will assign a Docket Number for your petition. The Docket Number begins with a letter which tells you the type of case you filed:

A: AdoptionB: Permanent termination of parental rightsD: Juvenile delinquencyE: Designated FelonyF: Child or spousal supportG: GuardianshipK: Foster Care ReviewL: Voluntary Foster Care ApprovalM: Marriage ApplicationNN and NA: Neglect / AbuseO: Family offense (order of protection)P: PaternityS: PINS (Person in Need of Supervision)U: Interstate supportV: Visitation and custody of children

The Court will also prepare a summons. You will have to “serve” the summons and petition upon the person you have filed a petition against.

The word “serve”, which generally means to deliver, has a very specific meaning within the law and for the various types of Family Court cases the meaning of that word may be different. In other words, the law sets out different ways of delivering a petition, which if done properly, would provide the Court with jurisdiction (power) over your opponent. Therefore, it is important that prior to delivering your petition to the opponent, you find out exactly how to do it in order for the court to have jurisdiction to hear your petition.


Finally, once you have served the summons and petition, you will return to Court on the “return date”. The Court will assign the return date and will provide it to you on your summons. On the return date, during your appearance in Court, the Court will expect you to provide proof that you served the summons and petition upon the other party.

What Kinds of Petitions Can You File in Family Court?

  • Adoption: When a child has no parents or guardians, you may file a petition to adopt the child.
  • Custody & Visitation: A parent, grandparent or a person with a substantial connection or relationship with the child may file a petition in Family Court requesting that the court place the child in his or her custody.
  • Family Offense Petition: You may file a family offense petition in Family Court for an order of protection.
  • Guardianship: A guardian is a person or an agency to whom the court gives authority to take responsibility for the care of a child.
  • Paternity: When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the biological father is not considered the child’s legal parent unless the father has signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” proclaiming himself to be the child’s father or an “order of filiation” has been entered, which is a court order that declares that person to be the legal father. To obtain an order of filiation, you must file a paternity petition.
  • Child and/or Spousal Support: In New York State, a child is entitled to support from his or her parents until the age of 21. Also, in New York State married people are obligated to support one another. To request child/spousal support, you may file a support petition with the Family Court.

Our Team Is Here To Help You Resolve Your Family Court Matters

If you’re currently going through a family court matter such as child support or a child custody battle, you already know how difficult it can be to keep your emotions in check. You may be having a hard time making decisions or reaching resolutions with your spouse, partner, or family member.

As a family court attorney, Mr. Stepanian understands what you’re going through and wants to reassure you that having such complex feelings during your legal matter is completely normal. After all, the decisions you make now will change your life for many years to come. For this reason, Mr. Stepanian offers you compassion during this tough time as well as legal services that help you reach peaceful resolutions.

Getting a family court attorney involved in your situation doesn’t mean that you want to start or continue a conflict; it simply means that you’re ready to work toward a resolution so that you can move forward. If you’re ready to put conflict behind you in favor of a fresh start, contact the Stepanian Law Firm for help.


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