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  4.  » The Weekly Pulse – What are the differences between Family Court and Supreme Court in New York?

There are two courts in New York State assigned to handling cases involving couples  seeking a divorce or dealing with a family law issues Family Court and Supreme Court. Cases can often involve both of these courts because they may share jurisdictions or authority across multiple domestic issues. Although the differences between these two courts may not always be  clear they are important. As experts in the legal industry, we are going to discuss and share with  you some of the vital differences between Family Court and Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court is the lowest level trial court of a general jurisdiction, meaning there  are two levels of courts above it. Supreme Court procedures are governed by the Civil Practice  Law and Rules. There are 62 Supreme Courts in each county in the state of New York. Married  individuals can seek matrimonial relief in the Supreme Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction  over divorces and equitable distribution. Unmarried individuals with children in common-law  relationships with or without children can seek relief in Family Court for issues ranging from child support, child custody and visitation to orders of protection. 

Family court is designed to allow people to represent themselves but is best traversed by  an attorney. There are standard forms for all pleadings that a person who wants to commence a  proceeding can fill out. A court clerk prepares the required paperwork, and a judge is  automatically assigned to the case. New York’s Family Court was created by the state legislature  via a statute called the Family Court Act. Its jurisdiction is divided into several articles, each  specifying a different type of case that Family Court has the authority to hear, these include: 

  • Article 3: Juvenile Delinquency Cases
  • Article 4: Support Cases – For both child and spousal support, Family Court can make initial awards and enforce or alter existing orders. However, Family Court cannot enforce separation agreements. 
  • Article 5: Paternity – Family Court can hear paternity cases and issue paternity orders.
  • Article 6: Custody and Visitation – Family Court can make child custody and visitation awards and change existing orders unless a previous order limits that case to Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. Family Court also has authority over termination of parental rights,  and over guardianship and adoptions cases, which are also shared with the Surrogate’s  Court. 
  • Article 7: Person’s in Need of Supervision (PINS) Cases
  • Article 8: Family Offense Proceedings (Orders of Protection) – Family Court can hear proceedings for and grant orders of protection.
  • Article 9: Conciliation Proceedings – The court can help married couples reconcile difficulties.
  • Article 10: Child Protective Proceedings – An authorized agency can commence a proceeding to remove abused or neglected children and put them in foster care against the wishes of their parents. 

Family Court and Supreme Court also have different policies regarding who will hear  your case. Matters involving child custody and child support may be heard before a magistrate or referee in Family Court rather than a judge. Sometimes a party could have multiple issues heard in front of court officials, in different courtrooms on different days. Whereas a divorce case in Supreme Court will generally be heard in the same courtroom. 

When making the decision whether to file in Family Court or Supreme Court, there is not  necessarily a right or wrong decision. The best thing to do is to discuss the facts of your case and  utilize the experience and skill of an attorney like The Law Offices of Marjory Cajoux to help  you decide the best strategy given your specific circumstances. For expert guidance with your family law matter, please contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our expert attorneys.