The Family Court and You! (2023)

A Citizen's Guide to Family Court

introduction|Family Court and you|initial appearance|Who can get a lawyer|your lawyer|your case|fact-finding hearing|hear disposition|contest your case|Types of family court proceedings|Who's who in the courtroom?|glossary


The purpose of this guide is to provide you with general information on how the family court system works. It is recommended that you seek legal advice before proceeding to family court. This guide is not intended as legal advice.

The Guide was originally created and distributed as a public education project by the Fund for Modern Courts. This localized version was created by members of the Tompkins County Family Court Advisory Council.

Family Court and you

The family court mainly deals with the problems of children and their families. The court deals with the following cases:

  • child abuse and neglect
  • Child custody and visitation rights
  • Family crime, including abuse of spouses and other family members
  • Children who may have committed crimes (juvenile delinquency)
  • Children not charged with a crime but who may need monitoring, treatment or placement (PINS)
  • fatherhood
  • Child, spousal and ex-spousal support
  • Planning for children who have been in foster care for a year or more
  • Termination of Parental Rights

When an individual or authority wishes to bring a case to family court, the first step is to file an application. The person or authority that submits a petition is called a petitioner. The person against whom the application is made is called the respondent.

Petition forms are available from theOffice of the Family Court. The application is an affidavit setting out the facts of the case the family court is asked to rule on. If you are not represented by a lawyer, you must complete the application yourself. In cases of juvenile delinquency, theprosecutorwill write the petition. Before making an application, you should consult an attorney if possible. The application must be submitted to the clerk of the family court. The case officer ensures that the petition is properly recorded (filed) and schedules the first hearing in the case.

In certain juvenile delinquency cases that do not involve serious violent crimes, probation officers may interview the person who made the complaint, the police officer, and the accused child to see if the matter can be resolved without a trial and to decide if If so, the child should be sent home or temporarily detained. No one can be forced to speak to parole officers at this time. What is said in the interview will not be disclosed unless the court determines that a criminal offense has been committed.

First Appearance (First Hearing)

At the first trial, the first appearance, the judge will briefly review the application and explain the charges or legal assistance claims. The judge will also explain the rights of the parties involved in the cases, unless the parties are represented by lawyers. In certain cases, the judge will assign a lawyer to a person who cannot afford one (see below,"Who Can Get a Lawyer") and can issue aCitationthe other person appears. In certain circumstances involving serious allegations, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.

After the completion of the first appearance, the judge will generally set a date for the attorneys to meet with the judge's clerk to discuss the application and determine whether the matter can be resolved amicably between the parties and without the need for a court hearing . If the application cannot be resolved amicably, the court will refer the case to the main hearing.

Who can get a lawyer

The parties in most family court proceedings have the right to consult a lawyer. You are free to hire a lawyer of your choice. If you are entitled to a lawyer in your specific case, but cannot afford your own lawyer, the court will usually commission a lawyer to represent you.Cornell Legal Aidand somethingLegal advice groups in the neighborhoodIt can also offer free legal aid to people whose income is below a certain limit.

In most cases, children are entitled to legal representation before the family court. The judge appoints an attorney, known as the legal guardian, for the child. There is no charge for the assistance of a legal guardian. Legal guardians can be lawyers who work for themLegal Guardianshipor lawyers appointed by the court.

In juvenile delinquency cases, the facts of the application are presented by the Assistant District Attorney. The Assistant District Attorneys bring cases of serious violent crimes.

In contested paternity or maintenance cases, theSocial Services Departmentrepresents the custodial parent regardless of income. The court will assign a lawyer to a man who denies paternity or a person accused of violating a support order if that person cannot afford a lawyer.

your lawyer

Your lawyer, whether privately commissioned or appointed by the court, is there to protect your rights. USE YOUR LAWYER.

Work with your attorney to ensure your case is presented in the best possible way before the judge. When speaking to your attorney for the first time, provide your address and phone number and get your attorney's name, address and phone number. Set a date to review your case before your next court date.

(Video) The Family Court without a Lawyer - Video 1 of 3

If you do not understand why you have been called to family court, ask your attorney for an explanation. You have the right to obtain a copy of the application from the court. If you have not received it, ask for a copy of the application and all other court documents.

The next time you meet with your attorney, bring any information or documents that will help explain your side of the case. Your attorney can best help you if you PROVIDE ALL THE FACTS. Attorneys' code of ethics prohibits them from disclosing anything about your case that you tell them confidentially. Let your attorney know if there are people who would speak for your side of the case in court. Tell your lawyer how to contact people who may be witnesses on your behalf.

At the hearing, allow your attorney to do all of the talking. If you want to speak, first discuss what you want to say with your attorney. As much as you want to speak up in court, the things you say without consulting your attorney can hurt your case.

your case

You must appear in court at the appointed date and time each time. If you are the applicant (have submitted an application) and do not appear as ordered, the judge may reject your application without further hearing. If you are the accused (a motion has been filed against you) and you fail to appear as ordered, the judge may accept your default and grant the motion without further hearing. Sometimes the court can arrest people if they fail to show up when asked to do so.

You should be punctual on the day of your court hearing. If for any reason you are unable to attend, please let your attorney know in good time so that he or she can ask the court to drop the caseanother day. If you lost your court records, call or phone your attorneyOffice of the Family Court. If you are unsure of where to go for your court date in court, ask at the information or security desk.

Fact finding hearing (trial)

The family court process can consist of one or two steps. Custody, visitation, paternity or alimony cases are decided in one step: establishing the facts. Family crime, dependent persons (PINS), juvenile delinquency (JD), abuse, neglect, or chronic neglect cases are adjudicated in two steps: first the fact finding takes place, and the second step is the injunction. There is no family court jury; the judge conducts all hearings.

In fact-finding, the judge hears all the relevant facts (evidence) and notes what is proved. If the facts are not proven, the case will be dropped. This closes the case. Sometimes the case is withdrawn, which means that the person or agency that wanted the case to go to family court decides not to go ahead with it.

If facts are proven in custody, visitation, paternity or maintenance matters, the judge also decides on the exoneration within the framework of the determination of the facts.

If facts are established in matters of family crimes, abuse, neglect, or chronic neglect, the case advances to the second stage of the hearing process, the injunction hearing.

hear disposition

If a judge decides that the information in the petition is true (proven) and there is an appeal, an injunction hearing will be held. The order hearing will begin immediately after the conclusion of the fact finding hearing or will be scheduled for another day. In the order hearing, the judge decides what to do with the allegations proven in the fact-finding hearing.

contest your case

If you think the final decision and court order is legally incorrect, you can do soappeal. This means that a higher court will review the family court's decision. Ask your lawyer about this right.

If you wish to appeal, let your solicitor know, who can tell the court that you wish to appeal. If you cannot afford one, a new attorney may be assigned to your case. You should speak to your attorney about whether or not the case should be contested. You must file a notice of appeal within thirty (30) days after the judge's decision in your case is served on all parties or their counsel. If the complaint is not submitted within the thirty (30) day period, you lose your right to complain.

Types of family court proceedings

You or your child may be involved in any of these cases:

Child Protection Procedure (Petition N)

Child abuse and neglect petitions cancarrythat a parent, guardian or person with legal responsibility for a child has neglected or abused the child. Neglect and abuse can involve causing emotional or physical harm or risk of harm to the child. It can also include failing to protect a child from harm caused by other people. The allegation of abuse or neglect must be proven in a family court hearing. If the case is not proven, the child must be returned to the parents or legal guardians. If the court finds that abuse or neglect has occurred, it can order the child's removal from the home for a period of up to 12 months. The order may also direct the parent or legal guardian to participate in programs and services designed to help address the issues that caused the abuse or neglect. At the end of the twelve months, the child may be returned home, the Department of Social Services may request an extension of the child's placement, or the Department of Social Services may request the termination of parental rights (see "Permanent Neglect"). . under).

A child can also be taken out of the home before an application is made. This can happen when a child finds themselves in a situation that endangers their life or health. If a child is taken out of the apartment before the application is submitted, the parents must be informed immediately. The social welfare office must immediately submit an application to the family court. The child's parents or guardian may request an expedited court hearing, known as a child return hearing, to decide whether the child should be returned home.

(Video) The Family Court without a Lawyer - Video 2 of 3

Sometimes a child is removed from a home with parental or guardian permission. Unless the parent or legal guardian has signed a document authorizing the removal, the party has the right to a hearing regarding the removal of the child from the home.

Custody and Visitation (Petition V)

Custody of a child means that a person is legally responsible for looking after the child. Sometimes the court grants visitation rights to people who no longer have custody of their child but have the court's permission to see the child at certain times.

The judge, after hearing all sides of the case, decides who should have custody of the child and signs an official court document called a custody order.

The judge can also sign a visitation order, which is an official court document stating that the person who has custody must allow someone else to visit the child in certain circumstances.

Family Crime (Petition O)

A family crime complaint may allege that an individual has injured or threatened a member of your family or household. After you file the petition, a judge can sign an official court document called a temporary protection order. This orders the accused person to immediately stop hurting or threatening the family member or household member and can even order that a family member be removed from the home. The temporary protection order will remain in effect for 90 days or until the court issues another order, whichever comes first.

A family delinquency application follows the same steps outlined above: initial appearance, fact finding hearing, and available hearing. If the allegations in the petition are proven at the fact finding hearing, the judge may consider various alternatives available at the hearing in deciding what to do. For example, a permanent protective order may be issued to replace the temporary protective order. A Permanent Protection Order stays in effect for one year, and violating its terms can result in the court imposing a prison sentence of up to six months.

A judge may also award custody to either party and/or determine whether a visit is appropriate and under what conditions.

Juvenile Delinquency - JD (Petition D or E)

A juvenile offender is a person between the ages of 7 and 16 who commits an act that would be a felony (misdemeanor or felony) if committed by an adult. A 13, 14 or 15-year-old child who commits certain serious acts of violence may be tried in a criminal court as an adult, or the criminal court may refer the case back to family court. In these serious cases, where the acts are designated as designated criminal acts, the District Attorney's Office is the agency that brings the case against the minor.

If the case is heard in family court, a date and time will be set for a first appearance. The case then proceeds as discussed above: through fact finding and injunction hearings.

If the facts alleged in the application are established and the child is found to be a juvenile offender, a judge has several choices in the injunction hearing. A juvenile offender may be placed in an institution where: agroup house, placed under probation or paroledconditional release.

If the judge decides that the child is a juvenile delinquent, the child has no criminal record. However, there are family court, parole and police records.

Persons requiring supervision: PINS (S query)

A person requiring supervision (PINS) is a person between the ages of 7 and 16 (up to 18 as of 01.11.) who performs one or all of the following activities:

  • does not go to school;
  • behaves dangerously or out of control;
  • often disregards parents, guardians, or other authorities; I
  • owns marijuana

A PINS application may be made (once written approval is received from the Parole Department) to request the court at the hearing to order the child's treatment or supervision. Like a juvenile delinquent, a PINS can be tied to an institutiongroup house, placed under probation or paroledconditional release.

Paternity (Petition P)

An application for paternity is filed with the family court in order to officially decide whether the accused is the father of an illegitimate child or not. A blood test is often required by the person claiming paternity or the person alleged to be the child's father, or may be ordered by the court. Either party or the court may request that an additional test known as an HLA test be performed. This test often reveals whether or not a man is the father of the child, but the cost of the test can be significant. (In some cases, the Department of Social Services pays for the test.)

In the case of proven paternity oraccepted, the judge signs a decree of parentage, an official court document stating that the person is the father of the child. Then the hearing will decide further on the rights to food. A man accused in a contested paternity case may hire an attorney to represent him, or have an attorney appointed if he cannot afford one. If the mother uses the services ofsupport collection unitin the Department of Social Services, this unit represents the mother regardless of her income.

The order of descent is extremely important because it establishes that the man is related to the child. This relationship must exist if the father is to have any rights (visit, custody) over the child, or if the child is to receive any benefits from the father (alimony, social security, etc.).

(Video) Support Court- Child Support And Custody Are Separate!

Persistent Neglect (Petition B)

When a child has been removed from the home because of certain serious issues, the Department of Social Services may determine that the issues cannot be resolved within a reasonable time, typically 12 months, from the date the child was removed. In this situation, the ministry can file a permanent neglect application to request the court to overturn the parent's parental rights and put the child up for adoption.

An application for permanent neglect can also be made when a parent abandons a child, is severely abused or persistently neglected, or when the parent has a mental illness that prevents him or her from providing adequate care for the child.

These petitions follow the same steps as discussed above, including an initial appearance, a fact-finding hearing, and an available hearing.

Support (USDL or F petition)

A wife, husband, relative, the Department of Social Services, or other authorized entity can file a maintenance application with the family court to have the court decide who is legally responsible for the maintenance of a child, spouse, or relative and how much support they will be paid should. paid. If the supporter resides in another country, state or county, a Uniform Dependent Support Act (USDL) application will be made. All parties in a child support case have the right to be heard.

The person accused of non-compliance (violation) with a maintenance order also has the right to be heard. The judge decides how much assistance to order after deciding whether the accused person is responsible for the assistance. In order to secure the alimony payments, the judge can order a salary deduction or forfeiture of assets or a judgment. If a support order is violated, the judge can send the person to jail.

Authorization of placements in foster care (petition L) and reviews in foster care (petition K)

Sometimes a parent or guardian, feeling unable to care for a child, relinquishes custody temporarily or permanently to a social welfare agency. The authority that takes custody of a child must ask the court to review and approve this measure. The parents must be notified of this hearing and have their side heard in court. The law requires that if a child has been voluntarily placed in foster care for more than thirty (30) days, that hearing must take place and the parents must be notified of the date of that hearing. The hearing must be attended by the legal guardian, a social worker and a member of the affected agency. The judge decides whether the placement is voluntary and necessary.

When a child is in foster care for twelve (12) months or more, a case called a foster care review is filed in family court. The court decides what to do with the foster child. This review could result in a parent losing custody of their child or in the child being returned to their parents. If a child remains in a foster family, another hearing must take place in one year. The father has the right to an attorney at a foster review.

Who's who in the courtroom?

The judge directs the courtroom and decides what happens in a case. He or she sits at a desk (also called a bench) in front of the courtroom. As in other courts, the judge wears a black robe.

Deputy District Attorney
The Assistant District Attorney files PINS and JD petitions against the minor.

Deputy District Attorney
The Assistant District Attorney files the petition in specific juvenile delinquency cases involving specific crimes.

court clerk
The Court Magistrate conducts spousal and child support hearings and initiates proceedings in relation to uncontested paternity cases. Contested paternity cases are tried by the Judge of the Family Court.

keeper of the law
A legal guardian is a lawyer appointed by the court to represent the child's legal interests.

probation officer
The probation officer works for the County Probation Department. Normally, a probation officer is not present at family court unless the judge requests his presence. Sometimes the judge directs the parole department to gather information about the people involved in a case and to report to the court.

court official
The court officer is a non-uniformed assistant bailiff responsible for maintaining order and security in the courtroom.

court reporter
The court clerk records every word spoken during court hearings on a special machine.

the social worker
The employee of a social service agency involved in a case is commonly referred to as a social worker. Social workers often need to gather information about the people involved in a case and report it to the court.

(Video) Top Tips for Getting Sole Custody in Family Court


AttitudeA program of services provided by the Parole Department to resolve a complaint against an individual accused of a lesser crime.

shiftAn order to postpone or stay court proceedings in a case until another specified date.

RichterKnow and establish the veracity of facts claimed in a petition.

PermitVoluntary declaration that a fact claimed in a petition is true.

appealAppeal to a higher court to change a trial court's decision. Appeals are usually only lodged and decided on legal issues.

Assigned Counseling Attorneysappointed by the court to represent a party entitled but unable to pay for counsel.

feesFormal allegations made by the police or other authorized persons in court that a criminal offense has been committed.

conflict of interestWhen two or more parties to a judicial proceeding have potentially different interests in the state or have different versions of the facts underlying the case, they are "in conflict." If these parties have the right to be represented by counsel, they must have separate counsel so that each party can count on the unconditional support of their counsel. A wife and her husband can conflict; so can a father and a son.

conditional releaseOne of the possible final orders of the court. If the agreed conditions are met at the end of the year, the case is closed.

demands reliefA lawyer's application to the court for orders to improve the conditions of his clients.

Family Court ClerkCivil Servant in charge of the offices and operation of the County Family Court.

crimeClass of serious crimes, the penalties of which can exceed one year in prison.

group houseA foster home for several young people, which is usually run by a private childcare provider.

jurisdictionThe prosecutors of a specific court to try cases involving specific categories of people or allegations. Jurisdiction may also depend on geographic factors such as an individual's country of residence.

crimeA class of offenses for which the penalty cannot exceed one year in prison.

meetTo notify you by mail or in person of a scheduled court hearing or other official legal process.

CitationA document informing the person named in the complaint that a lawsuit has been filed against them. A subpoena requires a person to be present in court.

process suspendedOne of the possible final orders of a court. After one year, the case will be closed if certain conditions are met. The guilty verdict is "suspended" and never decided.


At what age in Georgia can a child decide which parent to live with? ›

Although many lawyers question whether children in a divorcing or divorced family are unduly empowered, the law in Georgia is that a child 14 or older can elect his or her "physical custodial”, the parent with whom the child will live with more than 50% of the time.

Can a father get full custody in Georgia? ›

As a father, you get full custody in Georgia so long as you put the child's best interests first. The court will consider the following when deciding the child's best interests: Compatability with the parent. Ability to meet the child's essential needs.

How do I get full custody in GA? ›

File a petition to begin child custody proceedings. You can file a petition for child custody in your county's Superior Court. If you are divorcing, the petition will be included in your divorce papers. You must then serve, or deliver, custody forms to the other party using a process server or sheriff's office.

How likely is 50 50 custody in Georgia? ›

Georgia judges are generally averse to granting 50-50 parenting time, since they find that a child usually benefits from having a single home. Nevertheless, equal parenting time is possible if that is the preference of both parents.

Is Georgia a mom or dad state? ›

The short answer is no, Georgia is not a “mom state” nor does it have a presumed preference for mothers in custody cases. In the past, family courts had the “tender years doctrine” which was a belief that it's better for young children to grow up in the care of their mother.

Can a mother move a child out of state without father's permission in Georgia? ›

Georgia parents who wish to relocate with their children must notify their child's other parent, or obtain permission from the court.

Can a mother keep a child away from father Georgia? ›

In Georgia, when your child is born outside of a marriage, the mother is the only person allowed to have legal or physical custody of the child. There are no automatic fathers' rights. This is true even if you live with the mother or have been in a committed relationship for several years.

How does a mother lose custody in Georgia? ›

Under Georgia law, a parent can give up parental custody rights voluntarily or can be deemed "unfit" and lose such rights by: abandoning a child. cruelty or abusive treatment of the child, raising a child under immoral or obscene influences, or.

How much is child support for 1 kid in Georgia? ›

The court estimates that the cost of raising one child is $1,000 a month. The non-custodial parent's income is 66.6% of the parent's total combined income. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $666 per month in child support, or 66.6% of the total child support obligation.

Can a 14 year old choose who to live with in Georgia? ›

At what age can a child choose which parent with which to live? According to GA Code § 19-9-3(5), children who are 14 years old or older may choose which parent they want to live with primarily. Once the child has made a decision, he will have to sign an Affidavit of Custody Election and submit it to the court.

What age can you leave a child at home in Georgia? ›

Children (13) thirteen years and older, who are at an adequate level of maturity, may be left alone and may perform the role of babysitter, as authorized by the parent, for up to twelve hours.

Who has custody of a child when the parents are not married in Georgia? ›

Under Georgia law, the child's mother has all legal custody rights when the parents are unmarried. This means that even when the father goes through all of the steps to confirm paternity and the court orders him to pay child support, he does not have any legal rights to visitation or custody.

Can you move out at 14 in Georgia? ›

The short answer is yes if they are 14 years old; however, the issue is a bit more complex than this. In Georgia a child at 14 once was able to make a final determination regarding a custody decision. Today a child at 14 can still make this determination, but the court will still look at the best interest of the child.


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