This article is meant to provide some background about divorce and family law matters in the New York City borough of Queens, New York. As mentioned in prior blog entries, although the statutes are the same for everyone in New York State, there are different rules and procedures that change from County to County and even court room to court room. New York is made up of four Appellate Divisions. Queens County happens to be located in what is called the Second Judicial Department and therefore the case law coming out of the Second Department is controlling for Queens County divorce and family law cases. The New York Court of Appeals is the highest court in New York. Therefore, case law from the New York Court of Appeals is controlling on Queens County as well as everywhere else in the State. Decisions from the three other judicial departments would be influential if the Second Department has not directly ruled on the matter. Although I practice all around the Long Island and New York City area, which includes both the First and Second Judicial Departments, my office and most of my cases are from areas located within the Second Judicial Department. This familiarity is helpful in my practice as a Queens County Family Law attorney.
Throughout my legal career, I have handled a great deal of cases in Queens County. Since my office is Nassau County, New York, conveniently bordering Queens, it is a short ride to the courts in Queens. Besides Nassau County, Queens and Suffolk are my highest volume geographic areas at this time. First I will discuss the Queens County Supreme Court, followed by information about the Queens County Family court.
Like everywhere else in New York, a person that wants to file a divorce case in Queens needs to use the Supreme Court. The Queens County Supreme Court is located at 88-11 Sutphin Boulevard Jamaica, New York 11435. Issues that arise for couples after a divorce (post-judgment) can be filed and dealt with at the Queens County Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justices are assigned cases that are filed in the Queens Supreme Court. Justices are elected Judges, but, Judicial Hearing Officers (who are usually former judges) may be assigned for trials or a hearing on one or all of the issues. The consent of the parties is usually obtained before sending it to a Judicial Hearing Officer since everyone has the right to have their cases heard in front of a Judge. In Queens, like every other County in New York, incidentally the only issues in a divorce that would go in front of a jury would be a grounds trial. Everything else would be decided by the Judge or a Queens Supreme Court Justice. Grounds trials, particularly, jury grounds trials are rare but they are a possibility.
Something to keep in mind for Queens and other New York City boroughs is that the Court has a very high volume of cases and limited Judicial Staff to hear the issues. Contested cases literally can take years to finalize in Queens (and other Counties). Expediting the hearing of the issue might be a good reason to opt for the case to go in front of a Judicial Hearing Officer instead of a Queens Supreme Court Justice. Parties might want to consider utilizing the option to choose a different venue than Queens if time is of the essence. Your Queens County divorce and family law attorney can talk to you about this possibility. Queens County has a Matrimonial Mediation Program which can also help resolve a case more expeditiously and amicably (I am a mediator myself and a big fan of the mediation option for those who can do it. Incidentally I am also a trained collaborative divorce attorney which is another great alternative dispute method for Queens, Long Island, and everywhere). A Queens Supreme Court Justice may refer a case to the Matrimonial Mediation Program or parties may request a referral themselves. Cases involving abuse, neglect or domestic violence will usually not be eligible for the Queens Matrimonial Mediation Program.
Legal separations, divorce, post judgment divorce matters (contempt, child support modifications, child custody modifications), are the usual type of matrimonial issues we find at the Queens County Supreme Court. Divorces are initiated by filing the papers and buying an index number at the Queens County Clerk’s office which is conveniently located at the bottom floor of the same building as the Supreme Court. The records room is conveniently located in the basement of the Clerk’s office.
Sometimes there is also a choice to file a case in the Queens Family Court or Queens Supreme Court after a divorce. The Queens County Family Court and Queens County Supreme Court usually have concurrent jurisdiction, post-divorce, to hear any issues about child support, child custody, visitation, and maintenance. But, the Queens Family Court cannot divorce people. The Queens County Family Court can hear most family law matters about children. Cases usually heard at the Queens County Family Court are: parenting time and custody; orders of protection cases against family members (family offense proceedings); child support; paternity; guardianship; juvenile delinquency; child abuse, neglect or termination of parental rights; and child support. As a side note the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is the organization assigned to handle investigations of abuse and neglect of children in Queens and New York City. Child Protective Services is assigned to Long Island cases. The Queens Family Court is located at 151-20 Jamaica Avenue Jamaica, New York 11432. Cases are handled separately in the family court. For example, a child support case will be assigned to a Support Magistrate while a custody case will be in front of a judge or referee. Separate petitions need to be filed for each. Family court is less paperwork intensive than Supreme Court and is designed to be a more expeditious proceeding. The cases are summary proceedings.
Please see my other blog articles and website for more information about particular aspects of the of divorce, family law and mediation. Feel free to call as well about your consultation. It would be our pleasure to speak with you about it.