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#306 Third Department Caselaw Round-Up for February 16, 2012, Part 6 of 6

306 Post 02-16-12, Part 6 Third Department February.pngThe first case deals with a juvenile delinquency case involving a dispute over restitution.

The second case, while ostensibly a child support appeal, is really an illustration of the mechanics involved in referrals between courts, in this case between Supreme Court and Family Court.

306 Post-2 Ulster County.pngCase #166 #512561
In the Matter of Michael V.
Ulster Family – McGinty Issues: Behavioral Issues; Criminal Charges; Evidence; Juvenile Delinquency; Preponderance of the Evidence; Probation; Restitution Cited statutes: FCA Art. 3 Affirmed

The child, and other individuals, gained entry to a vacant hotel and caused substantial property damage. At a hearing, the child admitted that he entered the premises without permission and that he caused property damage in excess of $250.00. The court found that, had the child been an adult, his acts would have constituted the crime of Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree. The child was adjudicated to be a juvenile delinquent, placed on a year of probation, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,500.00.

The child appealed.

The argument was that family court wrongly set restitution at $1,500.00, the maximum amount allowable by statute under FCA Article 3. However, a representative of the hotel submitted an insurance adjuster’s report (which was properly admitted into evidence) at the dispositional hearing which illustrated that the property damages were well in excess of $1,500.00. This report, taken together with the child’s admissions, amply supported the family court’s findings.

306 Post-3 Warren County.pngCase #167 #512427
Reynolds v. Reynolds
Warren Family – Breen Issues: Child Support; Divorce Cited statutes: FCA Art. 4 Reversed

The parents of two children were divorced. When Supreme Court issued the judgment of divorce, it ordered the father to pay temporary child support and referred the mother’s petition for permanent child support to a support magistrate of the Family Court. After a hearing, the support magistrate issued an order of permanent support and the father filed written objections with the Family Court. Family Court, without addressing the merits of the father’s written objections, simply denied the objections on the ground that the father should have appealed the support magistrate’s order directly to the Third Department. The father disagreed and sought to reargue this procedural point, which was also denied by the Family Court.

The father appealed.

The remainder of the decision pertains to procedural matters found within the statutes in Article 4 of the Family Court Act. Basically, when Supreme Court refers a matter to a support magistrate, the same rules are in effect as though the Supreme Court had not referred the matter. Namely, written objections to the support magistrate’s order must be filed with the Family Court and addressed by the judge. Only after a hearing on the written objections, after having addressed the substance of those objections, may a Family Court judge then issue an order either confirming the support magistrate’s findings or reversing them (and, perhaps, holding another hearing). At that point, a litigant may then appeal the judge’s order.

Essentially, the chain of command is from a support magistrate to a judge to an appellate judge and not, upon referral from Supreme Court to Family Court, from a support magistrate directly to an appellate judge.