Public Hearings Set to Improve Counsel in Family Court

Jonathan Sperling

The New York State Unified Court System is keeping the family close by making the family court better.

At least that is the goal of a series of public hearings hosted by the State Commission on Parental Legal Representation throughout New York in the coming months.

The commission, established by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore in February 2018, looks to gather information on existing services and hear suggestions for reforms to ensure quality, cost-effective mandated parental legal representation for parties eligible for assigned counsel in family law cases.

“The information and suggestions for reform to be elicited from these public hearings will prove vital in moving the Commission forward as it strives to build upon the groundwork being done across the State to improve the quality of mandated parental legal representation,” DiFiore said in a statement.

Indigent parents and other specified adults in New York are entitled to assistance from court-appointed and compensated counsel in cases involving child abuse and neglect, foster care placement, termination of parental rights and other matters, according to the UCS.

Throughout the hearings, the commission—led by Hon. Karen Peters and made up of judges, legal service providers, child welfare experts and county and state officials—will analyze an array of issues, such as, “the adequacy of current rates for assigned counsel services (County Law Article 18-B); the responsibility of the State vs. the counties for funding mandated parental representation; when the right to counsel should attach; the criteria for determining eligibility for assigned counsel; and the challenges in rural counties,” UCS said in a statement.

The four public hearings will convene on the following dates: Sept.13, 2018, 1-4 p.m., 50 East Avenue, Suite 200, Rochester, NY; Sept.27, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 27 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; Oct.10, 2018, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Justice Bldg., State St., Room 511, Albany, NY; Oct. 23, 2018, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 100 Supreme Court Drive, Mineola, Long Island.

Those who wish to testify via written submissions, including those who wish to testify orally, should send information to by Aug.16, 2018.

Those who would like to be invited to testify at a hearing should email at least 20 days in advance of the hearing with the subject line “Oral Testimony Request.”
For more information on the hearings and for a brief survey that may be completed on its own or as a compliment to a testimony, go to