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Defendant Claims Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A New York Family Lawyer said that, this is a proceeding under Section 890, subdivision 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against a father who is alleged to have neglected to provide for his wife and child according to his means. The proceeding came on for trial and the Court ordered a payment of $20 weekly. A bond was required and the matter adjourned to give defendant an opportunity to furnish the bond.

A New York Divorce Lawyer said that, the defendant has raised a question of jurisdiction. However, the Court entertained serious doubt as to its jurisdiction, and on its own motion, took the question under consideration.

Nassau County Family Lawyer said the issue in this case is whether the Children’s Court of Nassau County have exclusive jurisdiction of child support proceedings completely pre-empting the District Court of Nassau County in the cases enumerated in Section 30 of the Children’s Court Act.

A Staten Island Family Lawyer said the Court in deciding the case said that, it will be helpful first to state the general nature of the several remedies available in the case of defaulting husband and fathers. There are civil proceedings. The essential purpose of such proceedings is to provide for the future rather than punish for the past. In this category are proceedings in the Children’s Court and proceedings in the Supreme Court incidental to annulment, divorce and separation actions.

The second category comprises criminal proceedings on charges of misdemeanor or felony under the Penal Law. The purpose of these proceedings is to punish for past conduct. The proceeding under Section 899 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is a hybrid–partly civil, partly criminal. It is an archaic proceeding originating in antiquity. The categories of disorderly persons are substantially the same as they were a century ago. By contrast with the modern remedy provided in the Children’s Court Act, it is cumbersome in prosecution and rigid and unsatisfactory in enforcement. In the year 1903, Supreme Court Justice said the antiquity of the statute was probably all that saved it from unconstitutionality.

Section 30 of the Children’s Court Act provides: ‘In addition to the powers prescribed by section 6 of this chapter, the children’s court shall have: 1. Jurisdiction within the county to hear and determine all proceedings to compel the child support of a minor child; step-child ; wife, if pregnant, or if the support of her minor child or step-child is involved; or minor poor relative’.

It is evident that the grant of exclusive jurisdiction of enumerated support proceedings to the Children’s Court did not oust the criminal courts of jurisdiction of cases essentially criminal in nature, i. e., misdemeanors and felonies predicated in part on neglect of a father to provide for his family. The proceeding under Section 899 of the Code comes in two parts. The magistrate must first be satisfied by confession or testimony that the defendant has neglected to provide for the wife or child. He may then require the defendant to post a bond to secure future weekly payments. While criminal in form, the proceeding, up to this point is, in essence, civil. It has a purpose identical with the children’s court support proceeding: to provide for the future rather than punish for the past. This conclusion is reinforced by the statutory requirement that the defendant be discharged if the bond is furnished.

The proceeding changes character if the bond is not filed. Only then can the defendant be punished by conviction and sentence as a disorderly person. The split nature of the proceeding is paralleled by the procedure whereby a person violating an order of support of the Children’s Court may be punished in a criminal court under Section 482 of the Penal Law. The jurisdiction of the Nassau County District Court in the first phase of a proceeding under Section 899 of the Code clearly embraces the identical subject matter that is the exclusive domain of the Children’s Court, namely, an inquiry and adjudication to secure future support. The second phase of the proceeding becomes an obsolete appendage replaced by the broad enforcement powers conferred on the Children’s Court by article III-A of the Children’s Court Act.

The legislative intent to carve out the obsolete magistrate’s jurisdiction under Section 899 of the Code and replace it with the modern Children’s Court procedure is apparent from the history of the Domestic Relations Court Act of New York City. The Children’s Court Act differs in some specific matters from the Domestic Relations Court Act of New York City, but it generally parallels the latter act in relation to support proceedings. Prior to the formation of the Family Court Division of the Domestic Relations Court, there had been a Family Court Division in the Magistrates’ Courts of New York City. Upon the formation of the Family Court Division of the Domestic Relations Court, all cases formerly dealt with by the Family Court Division of the Magistrate’s Court were transferred to the new court.

The Magistrate’s Court of the City of New York no longer has jurisdiction of support proceedings under Section 899 of the Code. Exclusive jurisdiction of such matters is vested in the Domestic Relations Court. The only jurisdiction that the Nassau county District Court could assert in support proceedings is the jurisdiction under Section 899 of the Code. Section 234 of the Nassau County District Court Act, expressly provides that nothing in that act shall be construed to confer upon the District Court jurisdiction of proceedings of which the Children’s Court has jurisdiction.

Accordingly, the court held that the Nassau County District Court has no jurisdiction over support proceedings within the categories set forth in the Children’s Court Act. The information is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

If the court has no jurisdiction over a child support claim, seek for the legal advice of a Nassau Child Support Attorney and Nassau Family Attorney in order to know how you can dismiss the claim. Call us at Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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