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Family Court vs. Supreme Court in New York

The distinction between Family Court and Supreme Court in New York is often blurred, leaving individuals dealing with a family law issue to wonder where exactly their case will be handled. While these courts do share authority over multiple issues, it is important to understand the difference between the two as it relates to your case.

Perhaps the most notable difference is the jurisdiction of both courts. Supreme Court is New York's trial level court of general jurisdiction. As a trial level court, this means that there are two levels of court higher than it. Supreme Court is authorized to hear essentially any kind of case, family law included. Each county in New York has a Supreme Court, equaling 62 total Supreme Courts.

Family Court, however, was created by statue. As a result, the Family Court Act determines which cases can and cannot be heard in Family Court. Any time the Family Court Act is amended, it can alter the court's authority to hear certain cases.

According to the articles of the Family Court Act, Family Court is permitted to hear all of the following cases:

  • Juvenile delinquency cases
  • Support cases
  • Paternity cases
  • Custody and visitation cases
  • Person's in Need of Supervision (PINS) cases
  • Family offense cases
  • Conciliation proceedings
  • Child protective proceedings

How do case procedures differ between these courts?

Another key difference lies in how cases are handled in Supreme Court and Family Court. Procedure in Supreme Court is governed by the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) and as such, is much more formal than Family Court. Before an action can be commenced, numerous forms must be submitted and various fees paid. It is highly uncommon for cases to be heard in Supreme Court without the representation of a lawyer.

Family Court could almost be considered easygoing in contrast. User-friendliness is a priority and the court is designed in such a way that people can represent themselves. When a case comes in, a judge is automatically assigned and there is no additional paperwork necessary to put the case on the calendar.

Evidence is also handled differently in both Supreme Court and Family Court. In the latter, there are statutory exceptions to the normal rules of evidence. Supreme Court, however, only applies all of the normal rules of evidence.

Given the somewhat complex nature of both courts, an attorney can be an invaluable asset to your case. Without legal representation, you run the risk of being given a less than satisfactory outcome. Our firm can help protect your rights and fight for the case results you really need. To find out more, get in touch with our New York City divorce attorney today!

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