New York State Family Court
Open 24/7 for Emergency Cases
By Janet Fink
New York State Family Court will never sleep again.
Family court judges are now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to handle emergency requests in child abuse and neglect cases [Laws of 2006, ch. 740]. The new law took effect Jan. 18. Where parents have been uncooperative with a child protective investigation, the new law permits a child protective agency, before filing a petition, to seek a family court order. That order would require a parent to immediately produce a child at a designated place for an interview and observation or to allow a child protective caseworker immediate access to the home.
Judges from each judicial district, and one each from Nassau and Suffolk counties and New York City, will be available via cell phone at all hours. Caseworkers and attorneys from child protective agencies will have a toll-free number they can call to contact the Office of Court Administration (OCA) Technology Division’s help desk operators, on duty 24/7.
The operators, who have been trained in the new statute, will connect the judge and the parties, arrange for transcription of the calls, generate the court orders, affix electronic signatures and transmit the court orders. Special forms have been developed with the assistance of OCA’s Family Court Advisory and Rules Committee, and administrative orders have been issued to ensure that the designated judges will be able to issue orders beyond their own counties.
This collaborative, statewide effort has resulted in a seamless process for handling emergencies that put the safety of our children at risk.
Janet Fink is Deputy Counsel for Family Law, New York State Office of Court Administration.
Spring 2007 (PDF)
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