By: Akanksha A. Panicker
[1.1] EXPLAINING A PATERNITY CASE
It’s easy enough to identify a child’s birth mother, but what about paternity? A child born to parents not married to each other is considered not to have a legal father, unless the biological father signs an ‘Acknowledgement of Paternity.’ This is usually done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.
So, what exactly happens?
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is a legal process through which paternity, or legal fatherhood, can be established. The father declares himself to be the child’s father, entering an ‘Order of Filiation’ which essentially is a court order declaring legal parenthood. A petition can be filed in Family Court seeking the same.
Paternity establishment ultimately is just the process of determining the legal father of a child. In New York, unmarried parents can establish paternity by [A.] signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form; or [B.]by petitioning a court to determine paternity. The Acknowledgement of Paternity form is available from hospitals, local district child support offices, and local birth registrars.
By: Undisputed Legal/Family Court Process Service Department
TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDERS. After the Petition is filed, the judge must decide whether to issue a “Temporary Protection Order” based on the Petition. If this Temporary Protection Order is issued, it may include some or all of the following:
- Order the victim’s home or work address, the phone number, or other related information deleted from all records filed with the court concerning the Protection Order.
- Restrain the defendant from committing or threatening to commit acts of abuse, or from harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting, or otherwise communicating directly or indirectly with the victim, victim’s minor children, or any other designated family or household member.
By: Undisputed Legal/Family Court Process Service Department
Persons covered by a Protection Order include the victim, minor children of the victim, and designated household or family members. These people will be referred to as “the victim”. The alleged abuser will be referred to as “the defendant”.
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JUDGES: A judge is in charge of the hearing (trial). Judges listen to witnesses, examine evidence, and then decide whether the case has been proven.
SUPPORT MAGISTRATES: A support magistrate hears support cases (petitions seeking monetary support for a child or spouse) and paternity cases (petitions to declare someone to be the child’s father).
COURT ATTORNEY REFEREES: Court attorney referees hear and issue orders in custody, visitation, and foster-care cases.
PETITIONER: A petitioner is the person or agency filing the petition. A petition is a written request to the court to make a decision.
RESPONDENT: The respondent is the person or agency against whom the petition is filed.
The Family Court of the State of New York has the authority to decide cases affecting the lives of children and families. The court has a wide range of powers to fit the needs of the people who come before it.
The Family Court Act gives the Family Court power to hear certain types of cases. Each case filed is given its own identifying number, called a “docket number.”
The docket number begins with a letter that identifies the type of case filed:
WHO IS A JUVENILE DELINQUENT?
A “juvenile delinquent” is someone at least 7 but under 16 years old who commits an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult and is found to be in need of “supervision, treatment or confinement.” The act committed is a “delinquent act.” Juvenile delinquency cases are heard in Family Court. In Family Court, the accused child is called “the respondent.” The alleged victim is called “the complainant.”
Children who are 13, 14 or 15 years old who commit certain more serious or violent acts may be treated as adults. These cases are heard in Supreme Court but may sometimes be transferred to the Family Court. If found guilty in the Supreme Court, the young person is called a “juvenile offender” and can be subject to more serious penalties than a juvenile delinquent.
WHO FILES A PETITION TO TERMINATE A PARENT’S RIGHTS?
ACS or the foster care agency may in some circumstances file a petition asking the court to terminate (end) a parent’s legal rights to a child so that the child may be adopted.
WHAT ARE A PARENT’S LEGAL RIGHTS?
The rights that the child protective agency seeks to terminate include the parent’s right to custody, to raise the child, to make religious, educational, or medical decisions for the child, to visit with the child, to speak with the child, to contact the child, and to learn about the child.
WHO MUST BE NOTIFIED ABOUT THE PETITION?
The mother must be served with the petition and a summons. If the child’s parents are or were married, then the agency must also serve the father.
WHAT IS GUARDIANSHIP?
A guardian is a person or an agency that the court gives authority to be responsible for a child’s care. The Family Court may grant guardianship of a child 18 years of age or younger, or of an 18-21 year old with the young person’s consent. Guardianship is similar to custody and to adoption: a person petitions to care for and be legally responsible for a child.
An adult relative, family friend, or a child protective agency may petition the court to be appointed the child’s guardian. Guardianship is the most extensive power, short of adoption, that a court can give a non-parent. It is not a permanent relationship; it ends automatically when the child reaches 18 years of age (21 if the child consents) or when the child marries or dies. The child’s guardian can, among other things, obtain or consent to medical, educational, and mental health services; consent to marriage; consent to enlistment in the armed services; and consent to the inspection and release of confidential medical records.
WHAT IS FOSTER CARE?
A child in “foster care” is a child who has been placed in the care and custody of ACS and/or a foster care agency for either short-term or long-term care. Placement may be with a “foster family,” the child’s relatives, or a group home. A relative who is a foster parent is often called a “kinship” foster parent. Foster families receive foster care funds (child support from ACS) to help care for the child. ACS and/or the foster care agency have custody of the child, but the parent continues to have legal rights to make some decisions about the child’s welfare.
HOW DOES A CHILD ENTER FOSTER CARE?
There are a number of ways a child may be placed into foster care:
1) A parent or legal guardian may ask to have the child placed in foster care – called a voluntary placement.
2) The court may order the child be placed in foster care, as part of a PINS or child protective case.
3) A child-protective agency like ACS may also remove children from their homes in emergencies if the agency determines that the children are in danger. See Paragraph C in the Child Protective Proceeding section, above.