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New York family courts bogged down by low number of judges

Recent reports claim that family court cases, including child custody cases, have been facing prolonged lags across New York over the past few years. The main culprit is a strained legal system - a combination of an influx of cases and a stagnant number of judges.

The result of the inefficient legal system is taking its toll on children who are forced to stay in foster homes longer than usual while cases are continually postponed. One parent of a six-year-old child currently battling her ex-spouse in a child custody case said that such delays and the disposal of cases becomes frustrating and severely impacts the children who are involved in the disputes. It is also exasperating for the parents who are looking for legal custody of their child, as well.

The state has, in its recent budget, granted funding for twenty additional judges to preside over family court cases. This is the largest step taken by the New York government in years and comes as a relief, given that since 1991, the appointment of new judges had been stagnating in the New York City family courts. From 1998 to present, the state saw only four new judges join the family court system.

In 2011 alone, the number of family court cases filed totaled more than 715,000, according to a recent report. This caseload was handled by only 419 judges across the state. As a result, one quarter of these cases were still pending as of 2012.

Lawyers say that the appointment of new judges will ease the load on individual judges. They also say that it would help protect poor and marginalized Hispanic and black families who involved in child custody battles.

Source: The New York Times, "Dispute Over Judges Leaves Family Courts in Limbo," Benjamin Meuller, June 15, 2014

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