Who’s Who’s In New York Family Court

JUDGES: A judge is in charge of the hearing (trial). Judges listen to witnesses, examine the 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 a 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. 

COURT OFFICERS: Uniformed court officers are assigned to every courtroom and hearing room. They are responsible for security throughout the courthouse and call the parties into the hearing rooms when the judges or support magistrates are ready to hear the case. 

INTERPRETERS: The court provides interpreters for parties and witnesses who have difficulty with English. Albanian, Creole, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Spanish, and Russian interpreters are available daily in the courthouse in many counties. The court may also order interpreters for many other languages, including sign language for the hearing-impaired. 

COURT REPORTERS: Court reporters record all testimony and statements made during court hearings. In some courtrooms, court reporters take notes during the hearing using a machine that looks like a typewriter. The court reporter may be asked to type a “transcript,” a word-for-word report of what is said during the hearing. Hearings before support magistrates and some hearings before judges are recorded on tape recorders. The parties may also order a transcript of the taped proceeding. 

COURT ATTORNEYS: Court attorneys are lawyers who work with a judge and help the judge by conducting legal research and conferencing cases. Court attorneys also often meet with the parties and their lawyers to reach an agreement without the need for a trial. 

COURT CLERKS/ COURT ASSISTANTS: Court clerks and assistants sit near the judge or support magistrate and prepare court orders for the judge or support magistrate to sign. 

ASSISTANT CORPORATION COUNSEL: Assistant Corporation Counsel is lawyers from the New York City Law Department who prosecute juvenile-delinquency cases. These lawyers also represent the petitioner in support and paternity cases when the custodial parent is on public assistance or in the family- offense cases if the judge assigns them. 

SPECIAL ASSISTANT CORPORATION COUNSEL: Special Assistant Corporation Counsel is lawyers from the Department of Social Services or Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) who prosecute child abuse and neglect cases, termination of parental rights cases, and present support cases involving children receiving public assistance. 

ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS: Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) prosecute juvenile-delinquency cases involving children between the ages of 13 and 15 accused of committing serious or violent acts. 

LAW GUARDIANS: Law guardians are lawyers the judge assigns to represent a child in Family Court. They may be from The Legal Aid Society, Lawyers for Children, The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or Children’s Law Center, but they may also be solo practitioners. 

GUARDIANS AD LITEM: Guardians ad litem are assigned to act in the place of a parent for a child whose parents must appear in court but are unable to be there. They also work in the areas of adults mentally or physically unable to speak for themselves in court. 

ASSIGNED COUNSEL: Assigned counsel are lawyers appointed by the judge or support magistrate if a party cannot afford one. This lawyer, sometimes called an “18-b” lawyer, represents that person and is paid by the City. 

PROBATION OFFICERS: Probation officers work for the New York Department of Probation and prepare reports for the judges about the people involved in the cases. The Probation Officer assigned to the courtroom is called a Court Liaison Officer (CLO). 

CASEWORKERS: Caseworkers are social-service agency workers assigned to work with families. They bring case records to court and testify about the family during hearings. 

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