J.L. is a survivor of DV, and a single mother of 3, one of whom has special needs. For over five years she has been litigating in New York County Family Court. She had an order of protection and a custody/visitation case pending in New York County Supreme Court’s Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Part. That case was resolved in 2015 with an order of sole custody and a final order of protection in her favor. After the father of her children unilaterally withdrew all financial support for the children when she sought court intervention to protect her and her children, she needed to file for child support. However, because the parties were no longer married, she had to file for child support in New York Family Court while her custody case in Supreme IDV. We are now only mid-trial on the support proceeding, with our next court dates in 2020.
Why did this happen?
First, multiple court dates were required for the litigants who could not take off multiple days each month from work as they are paid daily wages. The Supreme Court case moved more quickly, whereas the Family Court Case did not. In 2017, mid-way through the first trial, the Support Magistrate retired, and there was a mistrial. The second magistrate assigned did not move the case towards trial as she was being reassigned and did not want another mistrial. The case now is on its third magistrate with a trial scheduled in 2020. This has been devastating for our client. Besides the obvious burden of taking days off work every few months for years, lessening her take home pay and perhaps impacting her long-term employment and opportunities for advancement at her job given her consistent, years long, pattern of taking a day off work every other month, our client has been left with an ineffective temporary child support order and no recourse. Notwithstanding the temporary order of support, the non-custodial parent has only been paying her, at most, 25% of the order for over five years.
Despite the failure to adhere to the court order, our client is unable to file a violation petition to seek enforcement of the order. Violations, and consequences for non-payment, only exist after the issuance of a final order of support. She and her children have suffered tremendously during this time. She lost one job because she cannot afford child-care and had to take off work every time a child was sick or had a school vacation. She has over $10,000 in credit card debt, just to pay for basic expenses like food and clothing. Her children no longer participate in the extracurricular activities that they used to do because she can’t afford the uniforms, bus fees and other expenses. If this family had one jurist presiding over the custody, visitation, and support matter, the case would have been completed in 2015. Instead, she faces ongoing protracted litigation that in no way responds to the real issues which individuals in New York face who are dependent on getting a resolution from court.