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Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence Unit

Mom and two children

Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence Unit

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley provides expert and sensitive support and guidance to survivors of domestic violence to help them rebuild their lives after experiencing abuse in an intimate relationship.

We can also defend you against allegations of child neglect based on your being a victim of domestic violence.

Almost 25% of the people who come to us each year need this assistance.

Family Offenses (Orders of Protection)

If your partner is physically, emotionally/psychologically, sexually, or financially abusing you, we can help you to obtain and enforce an Order of Protection signed by a judge, which can order the abuser to stay away from you – and sometimes other people, like your children – or face serious legal consequences.


We can assist you in obtaining or maintaining custody of your child(ren) by filing a petition to have your case heard in front of a Family Court Judge or a court attorney/referee and requesting fair and safe visitation arrangements.

A Custody Order gives responsibility for the child’s care and how the child is brought up to one or both of the child’s parents or to someone else. There are two parts of custody: (1) legal custody and (2) physical custody.

A New York court can make orders about the child’s custody only until the child is 18 years old. The Court gives custody based on what is best for the child, this is called the “best interest of the child.”

If there is no court order, then both parents have equal rights to physical and legal custody of the child.

Legal Custody

Whoever has legal custody has the right to make important decisions about a child’s care such as medical care or religious upbringing. If the Judge gives joint legal custody, the parents make major decisions about the child together. It doesn’t matter which parent the child lives with; both parents must agree on the decisions together. If the Judge gives one parent sole legal custody, only one parent has the right to make major decisions for the child.

Physical Custody

Whoever has physical custody, also known as residential custody, is responsible for the actual physical care and supervision of a child. If the Judge gives joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent for an equal amount of time. If the Judge gives sole physical custody, the child lives with this adult more than 50% of the time and this person is the custodial party and the noncustodial party will have visitation.


Visitation and custody are separate issues, although they can usually be decided in the same hearing.

In most cases, the court wants the child to have a relationship with both parents. When one parent has sole custody, the court will let the parent who doesn’t have custody have visits with the child and spend time with the child unless there is a good reason for the parent not to have visitation.

The court will order visitation if it is in the best interest of the child. Visitation is also called “parenting time.”

A child’s parents, grandparents, and siblings can ask the court for visitation. This doesn’t mean that the court will give visitation.

If the child is in foster care, a parent has a right to visit with the child unless his or her parental rights have been “terminated.”  If the parent’s parental rights have been terminated, this means that he or she doesn’t have a right to visit the child.

Child Support – Helpline

We provide advice about filing, modifying, and enforcing child support orders through our Pro Bono Unit.

Spousal Support/Maintenance Orders ensure a fair and equitable division of marital assets.

Uncontested Divorce/Spousal Support

In some cases, if you have a referral from one of our community partner organizations, we can help you to obtain an uncontested divorce, i.e., one that both you and your spouse have agreed to file.

You must have resolved all major issues – child custody, child visitation rights / parenting time, child support, spousal support, division of marital property and how marital debt will be divided – before you can file for an uncontested divorce.

We can assist you in filing a court case to determine who is the legal father of your child(ren) and his responsibility to pay child support, as well as to have rights to custody or visitation.

If an unmarried mother and father don’t sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form or a mother was married to someone who is not the biological father, a paternity case can be started in Family Court for an Order of Filiation.

An Order of Filiation is a court order that names a man as the father of a child. An Order of Filiation gives the father the right to custody of the child, the right to visitation with the child, and the responsibility of paying child support. The Order of Filiation can also be used to change the child’s last name and get a new birth certificate. Ask the Court Clerk how to do this.

An Order of Filiation can be done “on consent”. This means that both the mother and the father agree that the father really is the child’s biological father and neither of the parents are asking for a DNA test to prove it. It is very hard to change an Order of Filiation done on consent so it’s important that there are no doubts or questions about who the child’s biological father is.

Once the court signs an Order of Filiation, a child support case will be started automatically.

Our immigraton and naturalization legal services assist children fleeing abuse, sexual assault and war in their home countries.