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Family law

Protecting the physical safety and financial security
of families

Each year inMotion helps hundreds of low-income women go to Family Court in New York City to get orders of protection against their abusive husbands and partners. In some cases, these court orders require batterers to move out of the home so that women and their children can live without fear and hold onto scarce affordable housing. InMotion also helps mothers get court orders giving them legal custody of their children and requiring fathers to pay child support.

We provide free information about the law and what happens in Family Court. We also advise women about what is likely to happen in their cases and about governmental and private agency resources that may be helpful to them. In as many cases as we can, we provide free volunteer lawyers to represent women in their Family Court cases.

You do not have to be a victim of domestic violence to be eligible for our free legal services. Learn more about our eligibility requirements.

Orders of protection
If your husband, intimate partner or another family member is hurting or threatening you or your child(ren), inMotion can help you obtain a court order that tells your abuser to stop his violent, abusive, harassing or threatening behavior.

An order of protection could do a number of things:
  • Order your abuser to stay away from you, your home, job, school, child(ren)’s school or day care, and/or any other place where you often go
  • Order your abuser to move out of the home you and he live in (even if your name is not on the lease or title)
  • Order your abuser to not to interfere with the care and custody of your child(ren)
  • Order your abuser to pay temporary child support
  • Give you temporary custody of your child(ren)
  • Revoke your abuser’s gun license and order him to surrender any guns in his possession
  • Order your abuser to pay you for expenses caused by his abuse (for example, medical and emergency room expenses or repairs, if he has damaged your personal property) 

Child custody and visitation
InMotion can help you petition (ask) the court for legal and/or physical custody of your child(ren). We can also help you ask the court to order safe visitation arrangements for your child(ren) with their father.

Having legal custody of your child(ren) gives you the right to have your child(ren) live with you and to make decisions about your child(ren)’s education, medical care and religious upbringing.

Visitation is typically awarded by Family Court to the parent who does not have custody of the child(ren). If you are worried that the father may hurt or neglect your child(ren) or about his possible mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction or other dangerous behavior, inMotion can help you ask the court to restrict his visitation or deprive him of visitation.

Child support
In New York State, parents must support their child(ren) until they are 21 years old, unless the child(ren) is completely self-supporting. A parent who does not have custody (non-custodial parent) must pay to the parent who has custody (custodial parent) money toward the care and support of their child(ren). The amount of support that the court will order is based on the child(ren)’s need and the parent’s ability to pay. InMotion can help you petition (ask) the court to order the father of your child(ren) to pay child support.

A child support order could do a number of things:
  • Establish (decide) who is the biological father of your child(ren) (paternity)
  • Modify (raise or lower) an existing child support order
  • Order the Support Collection Unit (SCU) to take the child support payments directly from the father’s paycheck or order the father to make a lump sum payment and/or payments over time of money he owes
  • Suspend the father’s driver's license and/or professional or business license for failure to pay
  • Order the father to jail for up to six months for not paying child support he has been ordered to pay
  • Order the father to pay for health insurance and/or for medical expenses or special needs your child(ren) may have.

Spousal support or maintenance
InMotion can help you ask the court to order your husband to support you financially, both before you are divorced (spousal support) and after you are divorced (spousal maintenance).

Courts do not always award spousal support or spousal maintenance. In deciding about this type of financial support, the court will consider a number of things, including how long you were married, how healthy you and your ex-husband are, and your and your ex-husband’s abilities to earn your own income.

How we can help

Pro bono representation from a volunteer attorney
InMotion can find a pro bono (free) attorney to represent you in Family Court. There is often a waiting list for pro bono lawyers. Whether and how quickly we can give you a volunteer attorney depends on the complexity of your case and when a volunteer attorney is available to take your case. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee pro bono representation to all women who reach out to us for help. Learn more.

Free brief services
InMotion staff attorneys and volunteer attorneys can draft (prepare) legal papers which you can then file in Family Court to obtain crucial family law protections for yourself and your family. Learn more.

Free legal advice and information
If you need an order of protection, child support, child custody or visitation, or spousal support or maintenance—and are eligible for our services—we can give you free legal advice and information to help you understand your rights and the law as it relates to your case and personal situation. Learn more.

Types of family law cases that inMotion cannot assist with

Cannot assist with

Child abuse and neglect cases
InMotion does not provide free lawyers to represent women accused of child abuse or neglect in cases involving the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).

Adoption or foster care cases
InMotion does not assist with adoptions or foster care cases.

Criminal cases
InMotion does not provide free lawyers to represent women in Criminal Court who have been accused of crimes, including violence toward their husbands or intimate partners, abuse or neglect of their children, or engaging in prostitution.


More information about family law cases

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PDF Orders of protection in New York State (PDF format, 26 pages, 123k)
Read this booklet to understand the type of protection you can ask for, the steps you need to take to get an order, and what information you need to give the judge. This booklet also explains some of the ways in which the order may make you safer. En Español.
PDF Custody and Visitation in New York State (PDF format, 18 pages, 103k)
This booklet explains how to get a Family Court order for custody or visitation of your child(ren). It tells you the facts the judge will consider when making an order and also gives basic definitions of legal terms the judge is likely to use when speaking to you about your case. En español.
PDF Getting Child Support in New York State (PDF format, 18 pages, 103k)
This booklet explains how to get a court order for child support. It answers questions about the steps a person must take in order to raise or lower child support payments. It also explains how the Support Collection Unit (SCU) can help you. En español.
PDF Getting Spousal Support in New York State (PDF format, 17 pages, 117k)
Read this booklet to learn how to petition the court for spousal support or spousal maintenance. En español.
PDF Abuse and Neglect Cases in New York State (PDF format, 17 pages, 117k)
Read this booklet to learn how to petition the court for spousal support or spousal maintenance. En español.
Learn more about ACS
Visit our online resource directory to learn more about the New York City Administration for Children’s Services programs for families, location of field offices, the Office of Advocacy and helpful ACS publications.
PDF Adoption in New York State (PDF format, 12 pages, 60k)
Read this booklet to learn about different types of adoptions in New York State. This booklet also explains the rules regarding who can adopt, provides information about where to get assistance if you want to adopt a child, and answers common questions about adoption. En español.

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Last updated 10/13/2008
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