New York Family Law

Guide to New York Family Law

Unlike the civil and criminal court systems, which try to decide on a version of facts, family courts look at the best interests of children who are in legally vulnerable positions.  Divorcing parents, adoptive parents, those attempting to establish or deny paternity, and people seeking legal guardianship arrangements in New York may all need to understand NY family law.  This guide will provide you with a basic overview of all of these New York family law issues.  For more in depth information, check out other articles on this website or consult with a New York family attorney.


In order to adopt a child, you will need to go through New York family courts and understand NY family law pertaining to adoption.  New York family law requires that prospective adoptive parents become state certified as adoptive parents, including an extensive home study that includes multiple home visits, interviews, reference checks, and parenting classes.  

This part of NY family law helps to ensure that adopted children are adopted into safe, knowledgeable homes that understand how to deal with potential emotional problems or special needs of their adopted child.  Adoptions also require final court approval according to New York family law, even for private adoptions.  Some NY family law attorneys specialize in handling adoption cases.

Divorce and Child Custody

Because divorcing couples often have a difficult time agreeing on parenting arrangements, New York family law mandates that the court system make all child custody determinations.  Parental wishes and the child's wishes (if the child is old enough to express a reasonable preference) can be taken into account, as can a wide variety of other factors, when the court makes a determination of custody.  Even when parents agree, NY family law requires that a court give final approval to any parenting plan or agreement between divorcing spouses.

Legal Guardianship

Legal guardianship arrangements are allowed by New York family law any time a child's parent is no longer able to care for them (for instance, due to death, deportation, or incarceration).  It may also be used in some cases for disabled or elderly people who are incapable of making decisions for themselves.  NY family law generally gives parental wishes a great deal of respect when determining who is to be a child's legal guardian.  There are no age restrictions imposed by New York family law on potential legal guardians, and generally the only criminal convictions that will totally bar a person from becoming a guardian are for crimes against children.


If a father is not married to the mother of his child at the time of the child's birth, he may need to ask a judge to legally recognize his paternity.  NY family law allows paternity determinations to be made in family courts, and men who are trying to establish paternity—or those who are trying to deny paternity and obtain a court-ordered paternity test—may want to talk to an attorney with a specialization in New York family law and paternity law.

Related Topics