Many dream of the happy family with the two kids, dog, and white picket fence. Of course, that’s not always the reality. When you’re living a different dream or find yourself going through divorce, it’s important to know the family laws in New York to protect yourself and your family to the best of your ability.

Areas of Family Law

You may not be sure what things are covered under family law. Here are the most popular topics:

  • adoption
  • restraining orders
  • child custody
  • divorce
  • abortion


After living in New York for at least three months, almost anyone is able to adopt a child. If the person is married, both parties must adopt the child. If you choose to adopt your new spouse’s child with a past relationship, the child must provide consent if they are 14 or older. If you do adopt a spouse’s child, you are financially responsible for the child until they are an adopt, no matter what happens with the relationship.

Restraining Orders

If someone is harming you or threatening to harm you, you don’t have to live with that fear. You can get a restraining order, even if the person isn’t your significant other. The judge will clarify what restrictions will be placed on the other party and for how long.

Child Custody

New York focuses on “what is best for the child”. There is legal and physical custody. Parties can have sole legal custody or joint legal custody as well as joint physical custody or sole physical custody, depending on what the judges deems suitable.

New York also allows grandparents and siblings to petition for visitation if the parent will now allow it otherwise.


Annulment in New York can happen at any time if the marriage was invalid from the beginning. An annulment can happen if one party was already married, one party was underage, or if one party is unable to perform marital relations.


New York is more relaxed on abortion laws than some states, but there are still restrictions. You must be under 24 weeks pregnant in order to get an abortion, for example. The doctor also cannot issue an abortion that would cause the mother to die as well.