New York Family Law FAQ

I am currently paying child support to New York State for my six-year-old daughter—how long am I obligated to pay child support for her?  

In New York State, a child is entitled to be supported by his or her parents until the age of 21. Even if your daughter is a full-time college student, unless you and the other parent have agreed to something different, child support stops at the age of 21. However, if the child is under 21 years of age and is married, self-supporting, or in the military, the child is considered “emancipated” and the parents’ support obligation ends.

A child may also be considered “emancipated” if he or she is between 17 and 21, leaves the parents’ home, and refuses to obey the parents’ reasonable commands.

The mother of my child is not allowing me to visit or spend time with my son because I am behind on my child support payments—can I ask the family court for assistance with obtaining visits even if I am delinquent on child support?  

If you have an existing child custody and visitation order which outlines the terms of your visitation rights, you can go to court and file a “Petition for Enforcement of a Visitation Order.” This document should be used when a custodial parent interferes with the non-custodial parent’s visitation and the non-custodial parent needs the assistance of the court. The non-custodial parent must testify at a hearing and give details of specific occurrences, the number of times, and specific time period that the custodial parent interfered with visitation. If there are sufficient facts to find a violation, the judge can change the visitation order and impose sanctions or a fine on the custodial parent. 

If you never had any orders regarding child custody and visitation, you can file a custody or visitation petition in Family Court. The parent must name the other parent on the petition and explain the reasons why he/she should have custody. Either parent in a custody or visitation petition has the right to an attorney. If the court determines that the parent or custodian cannot afford an attorney, Family Court will assign one to him/her. At one or more court appearances, the parents will have the opportunity to reach a custody and visitation agreement. The court can issue temporary and final orders for custody and visitation.

Courts view child support and visitation as separate issues. If the non-custodial parent is late on child support, the visitations must continue anyway. A judge will frown upon a parent violating a visitation agreement for the purpose of obtaining past-due child support payments, and this may result in the parent losing primary custody.

The mother of my child wants to relocate out of the state, and I am worried that if she moves, I will not see my child regularly. She is the custodial parent. Can I stop her from relocating out of New York?  

If you have an existing custody order with the mother of your child and the relocation will affect the visitation terms in the order, she needs to have a court order approving the relocation or have your written consent to the relocation prior to any move out of the state. Without your consent, she needs to petition the Family Court for authority to move away. With any relocation case, the court will primarily examine the best interests of the child using several factors:  

  • Each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing relocation;
  • The quality of the relationship between the children and the custodial and non-custodial parents;
  • The impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child’s future contact with the non-custodial parent;
  • The degree to which the custodial parent’s and child’s lives may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the proposed relocation;
  • The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-custodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements.

The visitation rights of the non-custodial parent as well as the right of the custodial parent to a new start in life are carefully considered in the judge’s decision. However, the effect of the move on the child is paramount. A Family Court judge will not rule in favor of relocation if they believe that the move could have a harmful effect on the child—adjusting to a new community, school, and circle of friends and being away from the other parent can be difficult for a child. Alternatively, a judge may be inclined to rule in favor of the move if the child will have greater family support, more educational opportunities for the child, or better employment prospects for the custodial parent. As the non-custodial parent, your argument for wanting your child to stay must have merit. If the advantages of the child relocating with their mother exceed those advantages of staying in New York with you, the court may grant the relocation.  

I broke up with the father of my child six months ago. But lately, he has been sending me threatening text messages with violent images and making vulgar comments causing me to feel uncomfortable when he comes to my house to pick up our son for visitation. Can I get an order of protection against him?  

Yes, if you are being subjected to violence, threat of violence, sexual abuse, harassment, stalking, physical abuse or other criminal acts, you can seek an order of protection from the court. An order of protection is issued by the court to limit the behavior of someone who harms or threatens to harm another person. Family Courts, Criminal Courts, and Supreme Courts can all issue orders of protection. A Family Court order of protection is issued to stop violence within a family or within an intimate relationship and provide protection for those individuals affected. Because you have a child in common with the offender, you may petition the Family Court for an order of protection based on his current behavior towards you.  

A criminal court order of protection is issued as a condition of a defendant’s release and/or bail in a criminal case. A criminal court order of protection may only be issued against a person who has been charged with a crime. Unless the father of your child has been charged with a crime connected to his threats to you, you may not petition the criminal court for an order of protection against him at this time.  

A Supreme Court order of protection can be issued as part of an ongoing divorce proceeding. If you and the father of your child were never married, you cannot petition the Supreme Court for an order of protection. 

Contact A New York City Family Law Attorney

If you have questions about family law in New York, we are here for you. Reach us online or by telephone at 347-395-4799 to arrange a consultation with a knowledgeable NYC lawyer.

We represent individuals and families around Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and all across New York City.