The Law Offices of John Ferrara

How Long Do Child Custody Matters Generally Take To Be Settled?


If we have just a custody case, I can normally resolve the matter in nine months or less from the time the client retains my office. New York’s standards and goals require the Family Court to resolve 90% of all custody cases within six months of when issue is joined. If the case is part of a complex divorce, usually involving hotly contested or complex financial issues, we should expect a longer time to resolve the matter.

When Is A Guardian Ad Litem/Custody Evaluator Used In A Custody Case?

For custody cases, New York does not use a Guardian ad Litem/Custody Evaluator. However, most children will be represented by counsel. Family Court Act 241 says “minors who are the subject of family court proceedings or appeals in proceedings originating in the family court should be represented by counsel of their own choosing or by assigned counsel.”

Will My Child Ever Need To Appear In Court?

I am assuming that we are discussing a custody case, since a juvenile delinquency has different rules. In Matter of Julie E. v. David E, (124 A.D.3d 934, 937 [3rd Dept. 2015]), the court considered this question. A child who is explaining the reasons for his or her preference in custody or visitation proceedings “should not be placed in the position of having [his or her] relationship with either parent further jeopardized by having to publicly relate [his or her] difficulties with them or be required to openly choose between them.” In Julie E., the trial court tried to find middle ground between the child testifying in open court and the child only appearing before the judge with the parents and their attorneys excluded. The appellate court did not adopt this “compromise.”

As a final matter, we note that Family Court conducted what was described as a “modified” Lincoln hearing, in which counsel for both parents were permitted to be present during the court’s interview with the children. The transcript of the interview was not sealed, and was included in full in the appellate record. Neither the presence of counsel other than the attorney for the children during the interview nor the failure to seal the transcript was proper. It therefore appears the subject child to the litigation will not testify. He or she often will visit the judge in a proceeding from which the parents are excluded.

What Can I Do To Improve My Chances Of Winning A Custody Case?

I often ask my clients to provide me with a diary, including a list of witnesses to events that show either my client’s strengths as a parent or the adversary’s weaknesses. To be guided about what should appear in the diary, I outline what courts are typically looking to consider. In trying to decide how to present a custody case, we must always remember the only absolute in the law governing custody of children is that there are no absolutes.” (Friederwitzer v. Friederwitzer, 55 N.Y.2d 89, 93 [1982]). Still, the Appellate Courts have set forth factors they tend to consider when they determine a custody dispute. These are “the parents’ ability to provide a stable home environment for the child, the child’s wishes, the parents’ past performance, relative fitness, ability to guide and provide for the child’s overall well-being, and the willingness of each parent to foster a relationship with the other parent.” (Matter of Rundall v. Rundall, 86 A.D.3d 700, 701 [3rd Dept. 2011]).

This language just quoted appears repeatedly in Appellate Division cases, strongly suggesting that an effective custody presentation will show each of these factors favors the result one seeks to achieve. Cases using the just quoted language are: Herrera v. Pena-Herrera, (146 A.D.3d 1034 [3rd Dept. 2017]); Robert B. v. Linda B., (119 A.D.3d 1006 [3rd Dept. 2014]; King v. Barnes, 100 A.D.3d 1209 [3rd Dept. 2012]; Roberta GG v. Leon HH, 99 A.D.3d 1057 [3rd Dept. 2012]; Barker v. Dutcher, 96 A.D.3d 1313 [3rd Dept. 2012]; Jeannemarie O. v. Richard P., (94 A.D.3d 1346 [3rd Dept. 2012]); Raynore v. Raynore, 92 A.D.3d 1167 [3rd Dept. 2012]). Additionally, a preexisting custody arrangement established by agreement is a weighty factor, but is not absolute (Eschbach v. Eschbach, 56 N.Y.2d 167, 171 [1982]).

It is therefore important for both the client and the lawyer to consider what facts they have and can present to demonstrate “the parents’ ability to provide a stable home environment for the child, the child’s wishes, the parents’ past performance, relative fitness, ability to guide and provide for the child’s overall well-being, and the willingness of each parent to foster a relationship with the other parent.”

For more information on Timeframe Of Custody Cases In New York, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (845) 794-1303 today.

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