Family Court Bureau

Locations and Contact Information:
Western Suffolk:  Cohalan Court Complex
400 Carleton Avenue, P.O Box 9082,  Central Islip, N.Y. 11772-9082
4th Floor, Criminal Justice Office Tower
Tel. # 631-853-4343, Fax # 631-853-7798
Eastern Suffolk:   Arthur Cromarty Court Complex
210 Center Drive, Room 3000, 2nd Floor,  Riverhead, N.Y. 11901
Tel. # (631-852-3486), Fax # (631-852-2879)
** Para Informacion en Espanol llamar al 631-853-4343

Assignment of counsel:

Certain litigants in certain types of cases may be assigned legal representation by Family Court judges, Court attorney referees or Support magistrates if the litigant is financially unable to retain his/her own attorney. On the first court appearance, litigants will be advised of their rights to counsel and should inform the court if they are financially unable to retain an attorney. The court may decide to assign counsel after its own financial inquiry of the litigant or it may refer the litigant to the Legal Aid Society for a financial interview and assessment. The Court will then consider that assessment in deciding whether to assign counsel. Persons who have been notified of an upcoming court date may make application for pre-screening by contacting the Legal Aid office for an appointment and presenting a copy of the court petition and evidence of their income and financial resources. Assessment and recommendation will be forwarded to the court for its consideration of the request for assigned counsel.

Bureau attorneys may be assigned by the Court

to represent a litigant. There are 7 staff attorneys in the Central Islip Family Court (one of whom is fluent in Spanish) and 2 attorneys in the Riverhead Family Court. Attorneys are supported by a staff of interviewers, secretaries, an investigator and a client advocate social worker. All staff attorneys are employed on a full-time basis and practice law exclusively in Family Court. Working in the Family Court every day, staff attorneys gain valuable experience in all dimensions of the substantive and procedural laws of Family Court proceedings. The application of that experience, coupled with a genuine desire to counsel their clients as they navigate the emotional challenges of Family Court, all serve to provide our clients with caring, quality representation. Clients have the assurance that they will have the opportunity to develop an attorney-client relationship with their one attorney who will represent them at every stage of the proceeding from initial interview to case conclusion.
The Legal Aid Society can only provide legal advice to its assigned clients. Other inquirers seeking advice or representation will be directed to contact the Suffolk County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (631-234-5577) or may be directed to Nassau-Suffolk Law Services (631-232-2400.) Those seeking representation to initiate or defend a divorce action will be referred to those two agencies as Family Court does not adjudicate divorce actions.

Types of cases where counsel can be assigned:

If the Family Court finds that you are financially unable to hire your own attorney, the court shall assign an attorney to represent you, in accordance with Family Court Act, Section 262, in any of the following types of cases. Please note that a “Respondent” is anyone who is summoned to court (similar to a “Defendant” in criminal court) and a “Petitioner” is anyone who has started the legal proceeding (similar to a “Plaintiff” in civil court.):

  • The Respondent in any Neglect/Abuse case (FCA Article 10)
  • Either Petitioner or Respondent in Family Offense cases / Orders of Protection cases (Article 8)
  • The parent of any child seeking custody or contesting the substantial infringement of his/her right to custody in any proceeding.
  • The Respondent in any custody/visitation case (Article 6, part 3).
  • Any person who is charged with contempt of a court order or willful violation of a previous court order.
  • A parent who opposes the adoption of his/her child
  • The Respondent in a paternity proceeding (Art. 5)
  • The parent, foster parent or other person having legal custody of a child in any neglect/abuse proceeding or Termination of Parental Rights case.
  • The parent, caretaker or interested party in a proceeding concerning a destitute child or
  • Any other type of case if the judge determines that the US or New York State Constitution mandates such assignment.

(It is to be noted that Family Court Act, Section 262 does not provide court-assigned counsel for petitioners in child support proceedings. Those seeking such representation will be referred to the Suffolk County Bar Association and Nassau- Suffolk Law Services.)

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