Debby was with her partner for ten years and they had a child together, Sarah. Unfortunately, Debby was not the biological parent, but with her partner had raised Sarah since she was born. When Debby and her partner split up their daughter was six years old. For a while they were able to co-parent but when Debby started a new relationship her former partner began severely curtailing her access to their daughter – despite a written agreement.
Debby reached out to LeGal during a walk-in clinic in the Bronx. We identified experienced co-counsel pro bono. Debby had to file two cases – one to determine her ‘parentage’ and another for custody. In this instance like many family cases, Debby had to choose where to bring her cases, either Family or Supreme Court. Counsel explained to Debby the pros and cons of each.
Ultimately, Debby chose to file in Supreme Court, primarily because her lawyer advised her it would take significantly longer to have a trial in Family Court and she would have to take days off work. Debby prevailed at trial, winning her right to parent and joint custody. When she was finally adjudged a parent in Supreme Court she tried to have Sarah’s birth certificate amended to include her as a parent. But despite an order from the Supreme Court, the Department of Health (DOH) refused to add her to the birth certificate. Debby was now forced to file another proceeding against the DOH called an Article 78. Those cases cannot be heard in Family Court but because she initially filed in Supreme she was lucky enough to go back before the same judge. Although she ultimately prevailed, Sarah missed months of contact with her mother.