Dedicated staff, specialized programs, and utilization of NYLAG’s robust Pro Bono program, allow the Matrimonial and Family Law Unit (FLU) to provide comprehensive legal services to victims of domestic violence, parents and their children, immigrants, and low-income people throughout New York City.

In February, FLU attorney Christina Brandt-Young, working as part of NYLAG’s Appellate Representation Program, received a favorable decision from the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department in a domestic violence and child custody case. The Appellate Representation Program focuses on representing victims of domestic violence in appeals to ensure access to justice in the appellate and trial courts.

NYLAG’s client, Ms. J, had a child with an abusive partner. Soon after, in an effort to evade continuing abuse from the father of the child, she and her child relocated to Illinois. Ms. J and the father subsequently filed custody petitions in Illinois and New York, respectively. Later, the father appealed a decision from the Queens Family Court that established Illinois as “a more appropriate and convenient forum” for determining custody.

Through extensive advocacy, Ms. BrandtYoung persuaded the Second Department that the lower court’s ruling that Illinois was the proper jurisdiction was in fact correct. The father’s petition was denied and Ms. J was able to continue fighting for custody in Illinois. She and her child now live without the threat of the father’s continuing abuse and violence.

In addition to protecting the victims, this case represents NYLAG’s ability to affect systemic change and set new precedent. The Family Court’s opinion in this case interprets the implementation of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is only five years old. This case may act as a model for future appeals cases and showcases the Appellate Representation Program’s goals of educating appellate courts about domestic violence and promoting good judicial decision making at the trial level.