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Erie County Family Court


Filing a Petition in Family Court

 

Completed Petitions

Completed petition forms may be filed with the Erie County Family Court by mailing or personally delivering them to:

Petition Processing Unit
One Niagara Plaza
Fourth Floor
Buffalo, NY 14202

Any business day between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 pm. Petitions will be marked received, record checked, docketed and scheduled in the order in which they are received. You will be notified by mail of the return date time and part.

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Petition Preparation Assistance Hours

Those individuals who require assistance in form preparation may have a petition prepared, docketed, and scheduled for them in one step. Petition Clerks are available to conduct interviews Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Interviews are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. The court does not schedule "appointments." The office opens at 8:30 a.m. and we ask that you arrive no later than 3:00 p.m. to ensure you are seen that day. Generally, the earlier you arrive in the day, the shorter you will wait to be interviewed. Thorough interviews usually require 25-30 minutes. Many times a person will sign up for one petition, but during the interview will decide to file additional petitions. This will prolong the interview process. Please be patient. If you are unable to wait to be interviewed, you do have the option of hiring an attorney to prepare the appropriate petition(s) for you.

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The Interview Process

After signing-in at the Petition Processing window, your name will be put on the day's list of persons seeking to file a petition and you will be given a questionnaire to complete which provides the Court with identifying information regarding both parties. Once this questionnaire is completed and returned, you will be asked to have a seat in the waiting area and the case will be checked for any prior case history. [If there is a prior file with the parties involved, the file folder will be pulled from the Record Room and delivered to Petition Processing.]

Your name will be called in the order you signed-in at the window. If your name is called and you do not respond, your name will be taken off the list and the next person will be called. If you believe someone has been called out of turn, it may simply be that the petition clerk scheduled to interview you is obtaining your file. Please be patient. We do follow the first-come, first-served policy.

Once you are called by a petition clerk, your petition will be prepared. In order to do this, the petition clerk will ask you specific questions about the reason for your petition, any change in circumstances, and the relief you are asking the Court to grant you. A docket number will be assigned to your petition(s) and the petition(s) will be scheduled before a Judge or Hearing Examiner. The petition will then be printed and you will be asked to review the petition and sign it in two places. You will be given a copy of your petition(s) and a notice telling you when to appear in court. A copy of the petition(s) and notice(s) will be mailed to the other party the same day. This will conclude the interview process.

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General Information

A Pre-Court Questionnaire (ID Slip) must be completed in its entirety for each Respondent.

Petitions require the complete address of both parties and any attorneys. The address must include whether it is a "Street," "Avenue," "Place," "Boulevard," etc. and the zip code. If your address is confidential, write "confidential" where your address would go and provide the address on the back or on a separate piece of paper.

Paternity petitions filed by the mother should include a copy of the birth certificate. If filed by the father or another party, a copy of the birth certificate should be provided if the party has a copy of same.

If you seek to modify or enforce a Divorce Decree, Separation Agreement, Oral Stipulation, etc., a copy of the appropriate papers must be provided.

If you seek to modify or enforce an order pertaining to an order of a Family Court other than Erie County, a copy of the order must be provided.

Support petitions must state whether parties were married, an order of filiation has been entered, or a paternity acknowledgment has been entered. If a paternity acknowledgment was signed in the hospital, a copy of it must be attached to the petition. If parties were not married, paternity must be established before the issue of support can be determined. Having the unmarried father's name on the birth certificate is not a determination of paternity.

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Child Care

Children will not be permitted in Family Court Petition Clerk Offices or Courtrooms. Please make arrangements for the care of your child(ren) while you conduct your business in Family Court. The YWCA Children's Center located on the First Floor of One Niagara Plaza will provide free day care during court hours on a first-come, first-served basis.

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