Family Law Attorney - Serving Erie, Wyoming, and Niagara County Family Courts

The area of Family Law covers a variety of different types of cases. Some Examples include Custody, Visitation, Child Support, Neglect, PINS, and Juvenile Delinquent cases. The volume and procedures for Family Court vary from County to County. For example in Erie County, located at one Niagara Plaza, Buffalo, New York is a seven story building with six floors devoted to Family Court. Whereas in Wyoming County there is one courtroom devoted to Family Court Matters which are usually only heard once a week.

A Family Court action is commenced usually by the filing of a petition requesting some form of relief such as custody, visitation, or child support. The Court will then serve or require you to serve the petition on the other party. An initial court date will be scheduled and the matter will proceed from there.

The goal of most Family Court cases is to achieve a settlement that is acceptable to both parties, but most importantly is the best interests of the child. As an attorney for children Attorney Jason Henskee is responsible for advocating on behalf of his clients after conducting his due diligence which requires investigation and interviews.

Custody & Visitation

Custody and Visitation petitions are perhaps the most common types of petitions in Family Court. These petitions come in numerous forms including initial custody petitions, modification petitions, grandparent petitions, and so forth.

There are typically two types of custody, joint and sole. Sole custody usually gives a parent the right to make all decisions regarding the health, education, welfare, and permits him or her to be the primary residential parent of the child. Joint custody allows both parents to share both physical custody and together make decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child.

Joint custody is acceptable where the parties are able to communicate and co-parent. New York Case Law holds that if parents are unable to communicate or co-parent then joint custody is not appropriate.

If the parties are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody then the Court can entertain a hearing and ultimately decide the issue of custody after hearing testimony and receiving any relevant documentation.
A Visitation Petition simply requests that a parent or other party such as a grandparent have access with a child or children. Again the goal is to reach a settlement wherein the parties agree on an arrangement that is acceptable and in the bests interests of the child.

Visitation orders and/or agreements come in a variety of forms and varying degrees of complexity. Attorney Jason Henskee has drafted numerous visitation agreements throughout his practice. Some of the agreements are a page long and set forth the basic visitation schedule and the custodial and residential arrangement. Some agreements or orders may simply state “visitation as agreed and arranged between the parties.” This is actually typical if the parties get along and are able to communicate effectively.

Attorney Jason Henskee has drafted other agreements which are upwards of twelve pages long and set forth numerous details regarding the custodial arrangement, visitation schedule, transportation, pick up and drop off of the child, communication requirements, vacations, holidays, and so on.

Attorney Jason Henskee spends a great deal of time helping and advocating for clients to obtain a custody and visitation agreement that they are seeking. Through this process he will spend a great deal of time negotiating with opposing counsel and the Attorney for the Child (AFC), drafting negotiation and settlement letters, drafting motions if required, drafting final agreements/orders, and advocating for his clients in Court.
Attorney Jason Henskee offers a free 30 minute consultation to review your financial information and discuss your case. Additional time or a lengthier consultation would require a small fee.

Child Support

Child support in New York is a percentage of the non custodial parent’s adjusted gross income with varying percentages based upon the number of children. For one child, it is seventeen percent. Two children, twenty five percent, three children, twenty nine percent, four children, thirty one percent, and for five children or more children, no less than thirty five percent.

The two relevant sections of law, aside from “case law” are Domestic Relations Law Section 240 and the Family Court Act Section 413. In determining the amount of child support under the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) the Court will require full disclosure of the parties financial information including prior tax returns, W-2’s, and paystubs. The court will also require the parties to complete what is called a “statement of net worth” which sets forth in great detail an individual’s income and disbursements.

An easy way to determine what your likely child support will be if you are the non-custodial parent is to use the CSSA Chart. The chart can be found at the Family Court Building, by using Google, or you can click here!

Other important links regarding child support are below:
Child Support Worksheet
Statement of Net Worth

Attorney Jason Henskee often tells clients that if they are in agreement with the other party and are in agreement with the Court setting child support under the CSSA standards then an attorney is probably not necessary. However if there is no agreement or if other issues are present you may wish to contact an attorney to discuss your case.

Attorney Jason Henskee offers a free 30 minute consultation to review your financial information and discuss your case. Additional time or a lengthier consultation would require a small fee.

Paternity

When you have had a child out of wedlock and the father was not present to acknowledge paternity at the hospital, a paternity petition is required to be filed in the Family Court to establish parental rights for the father. If the mother wants child support from the father, paternity needs to be established before a child support order can be issued. Sometimes the County brings a paternity petition on behalf of the mother, when the mother is receiving public assistance, to obtain child support from the father. The County may also seek money from the father to pay for his share of the birth, if the mother’s birth costs were paid by Medicaid.

Paternity proceedings will involve what is call a Genetic Marker Test which will determine with almost certainty whether an individual is the father. The Genetic Marker Test will have to be court ordered as most courts do not accept similar tests which can be purchased at Pharmacies or through other companies.

Another way to establish paternity is for a father to sign an “Acknowledgment of Paternity”, which essentially means that he is accepting and agreeing to being the father and all the responsibilities and obligations that come with it.

Adoptions

The decision to adopt a child is a very significant and substantial decision. There are many rights and responsibilities that come with adopting a child and the court process does take some time as there are numerous steps required, gathering documentation, a great deal of paper work, court appearances, and background checks. The steps required for an adoption may include the following:

  1. Attend an orientation session and choose an adoption agency.
  2. Submit an application and medical history, complete a national and state criminal background check, and also complete a check by the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
  3. Complete the home study process. You and your family will need to meet with agency staff in your home as part of the home study approval process.
  4. Attend agency-sponsored training.
  5. Work with a caseworker to find the child waiting for you.
  6. Visit with the child.
  7. After the child is placed in your home, work closely with the child’s caseworker for a period of supervision.
  8. Work with your agency to complete the necessary steps to receive adoption subsidies, medical subsidies, and reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses, if eligible.
  9. Hire and work with your attorney to submit the adoption petition to finalize the adoption in court.
  10. Contact your local department of social services or a voluntary authorized adoption agency to learn how to obtain post-adoption services, if necessary.

It may take six months or more from the time you apply before a child is placed in your home; it will take at least three to twelve months after that before the adoption may be finalized in court.

Families must first choose an agency so they can get certified as an adoptive family. Choosing an agency is a very important. Talk to different agencies and adoptive parents or parent support groups to learn how the agencies work with prospective adoptive parents. It is very difficult to change agencies once the adoption process has begun. A list of agencies is available by calling the New York State Adoption Service at 1-800-345-KIDS (1-800-345-5437)

Despite the amount of work and time required for an adoption, Attorney Jason Henskee loves this area of law. An adoption once finalized is a very happy and exciting moment for the parents and the child. It is an area of law where one leaves the Court Room with a smile.

There are numerous types of adoptions including, private/independent adoptions, Stepparent adoptions, and adult adoptions which are briefly discussed below.

Private Independent Adoptions

In a private independent adoption, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parents together agree to the adoption. If the adoption concerns an unborn child, the adoptive parents often have contact with the birth parents prior to birth. The adoptive parents may also have the opportunity to be involved in with the pregnancy, and sometimes be present for the birth. It is important to build a relationship with the birth parents as part of the adoption process because it builds trust and confidence in the adoptive parents paving the way for the adoption to occur as planned. Upon birth, the adoptive child is placed in the care of the adoptive parents.

Stepparent Adoption

Sometimes when one biological parent gets married (or remarried), it is in the child’s best interest for the new spouse to adopt the child. Often times the other biological parent has had little involvement in the child’s life, may not pay child support, or is detrimental to the well being of the child. In the typical step-parent adoption case, the step-parent is eager to take responsibility for parenting the child, and the uninvolved biological parent is eager to shed responsibility for the child. Some stepparent adoptions, however, result in contested litigation because the uninvolved biological parent does not wish to relinquish his or her parental rights.

Adult Adoptions

Adult adoptions are when one adult adopts another adult. Usually it is for one of the following reasons: 1) A foster child, or step-child, may wish to be adopted because of a close relationship. 2) An adult adoptee may choose to be adopted by a biological parent after learning their identity. 3) A way to create inheritance rights.