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Overview

NYC Civil Court | Small Claims Court | NYC Housing Court | Surrogate's Court | Family Court | Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV) | NYS Court of Claims | Bronx County Law Library | Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

This office, (located in room 121) is designed to help litigants who do not have attorneys navigate the court system. Self-represented litigants are provided with procedural information on a host of civil matters including Supreme Civil, N.Y.C. Civil, Small Claims, Housing, Family and Surrogates Courts. This office also serves as a clearinghouse for court forms, instructions, lawyer referral information and resources from legal and government organizations.

Note: As an office of this court, we cannot give legal advice or act as your advocate.

All persons involved in a legal action should consult an attorney.

NYC Civil Court

The Civil Court has monetary jurisdiction up to $25,000.00, including replevin when the value of the chattel does not exceed that amount. It has jurisdiction of real property actions, such as partitions, and foreclosures, within the monetary limit. The Civil Court also has equity jurisdiction limited to real property actions, ejectment actions, and actions to rescind or reform a contract not involving more than the $25,000.00 jurisdictional limit.

Cases filed in the Civil Court are varied, but in general seek an award of a money judgment.

For further information visit the NYC Civil Court website.


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Small Claims Court

The Small Claims Court is a simple, inexpensive and informal court where an individual can sue for money only, up to $5,000.00, without a lawyer. Since the Small Claims Court hears suits for money only, you cannot sue in Small Claims Court to force a person or business to fix a damaged item, fulfill a promise made in an advertisement or pain and suffering.

For further information visit the Small Claims Court website.


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NYC Housing Court

Each of the counties of the New York City Housing Court handles all of the following most common case types:

* Nonpayment cases. The landlord claims you owe rent.
* Holdover cases. The landlord wants you evicted.
* Illegal Eviction proceedings. You seek a court order to move back in your apartment after you have been illegally evicted.
* Housing Part ("HP") proceeding. You seek a court order for landlord to make repairs in your apartment or building.
* 7A proceedings. One-third or more of the tenants in a building ask the court to take control of the building away from the landlord and give it to a court-supervised administrator.

For further information visit the NYC Housing Court website.


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Surrogate's Court

The Surrogate's Court hears cases involving the affairs of decedents, including the probate of wills and the administration of estates. It also handles adoptions.

For further information visit the Surrogate's Court website.


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Family Court

Each of the counties of the New York City Family Court handles all of the following case types; Orders of Protection, Custody/Visitation, Guardianship, Support, Paternity, Neglect, Abuse, Adoption, Persons in Need of Supervision [PINS] and Delinquency (except for the specialized term of the Child Support Enforcement Term [CSET], which only handles child support cases of children receiving public assistance).

For further information visit the Family Court website.


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Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV)

The State’s Integrated Domestic Violence Courts allow a single judge to hear multiple case types; criminal, family and matrimonial, which relate to one family where the underlying issue is domestic violence.

For further information visit the Integrated Domestic Violence Courts website.


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NYS Court of Claims

The Court of Claims is the forum for claims against the State of New York and certain State-related authorities. It has no relationship whatsoever to small claims court.

For further information visit the N.Y.S. Court of Claims website.

Forms are available on the Unified Court System Forms Page.


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Bronx County Law Library

The Law Library serves as the primary legal reference resource for judicial personnel and support staff of the Bronx Supreme Court. The library is officially designated by New York State Judiciary Law, Article 21, § 813, as the Public Access Law Library for the County of the Bronx, serving court and local government agency personnel, members of the bar, pro se litigants, and the general public at large.

For further information visit the Bronx County Law Library website.


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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

1. How can I get a divorce or legal separation?

If both you and your spouse agree to a divorce – this includes all other issues, such as debt and marital assets -- you can get and complete the papers for an uncontested divorce by using the court’s Uncontested Divorce Do-It Yourself (DIY) Program, picking up the papers from the Bronx Supreme Court Help Center, or printing them from the court's website.

To get a legal separation, the parties must draw up a written agreement specifying their intent to separate and the terms of the separation. Note, there are no preprinted forms for a separation agreement. The agreement is drawn up by the parties or an attorney. It is not valid unless it is signed and notarized by both parties. A separation agreement can be filed with the court by purchasing an index number ($210.00) From the County Clerk’s Office and submitting an original notarized copy of the agreement

If the other person does not want a divorce or disagrees with you about certain issues your divorce will be contested. Instruction books and form books for contested Divorces are available on the court’s Divorce website and in the Supreme Court, Civil Term, in all boroughs. For more information visit the court’s Divorce Resources page and the Bronx Supreme Court Matrimonial page. The filing fees include $210.00 for the index number and $125.00 for the note of issue. If you are filing a contested divorce the cost can go higher depending on how much motion practice will be involved.

2. How can I get a copy of my divorce?

Copies of divorces are obtained in the County Clerk’s Office in the county where the divorce was granted. Only the parties or their attorney may view the court file or obtain a copy of the divorce. Identification is required. The fee for a certified copy of the divorce is $8.00.

3. Can the Court provide me with an attorney?

The court does not provide counsel in civil actions, nor can they recommend a particular attorney or law firm. The Bar Associations do provide referrals depending on the kind of action for which the litigant is seeking representation.

4. How do I commence a civil action?

Generally, you may commence a civil action in Supreme Court to obtain money damages over $25,000.00 or some other form of relief from a private person or entity (i.e., a corporation) whose actions have resulted in a violation of your rights. The action is commenced when the party alleging harm (plaintiff) files either a summons and complaint, or a summons with notice with the court. The summons invokes the jurisdiction of the court and provides notice to the alleged wrongdoer (defendant) of the reason why he is being sued. Every lawsuit must be brought within one of the various deadlines spelled out in the law, which are known as statutes of limitations. See CPLR Article 2. Accordingly, the summons MUST be served with either a complaint or a summons with notice. They are know as initiating papers.

5. What is a Summons with Notice?

As an alternative to filing a summons and complaint, you may file a summons with notice to commence a civil action. The summons with notice contains the same information as the summons, but it requires a brief description of the nature of the case and the relief being sought. Thus, the summons with notice is not accompanied by a complaint.

6. What is an Index Number?

An index number is a number used by the court to identify a case. In order to initiate a civil action, the plaintiff(s) must purchase an index number at the County Clerk’s Office (for $210.00), and file the original summons with notice or summons and complaint with the court. The index number and date of filing of the summons must be included on the summons before the defendant is served. The plaintiff has 120 days from the date of purchase of the index number to serve the summons and complaint or summons with notice on the defendant (CPLR 306-b).

7. What do I do if I cannot afford to pay the court’s fees?

If the plaintiff cannot afford to pay the court fees required to proceed with the lawsuit, he or she can apply for an order waiving those costs. This request is known as a Poor Person Order. The order will only excuse the plaintiff from paying fees normally charged by the court not other costs that may arise during the course of the lawsuit.

8. How do I answer a complaint or motion?

A verified answer must be filed with the court and served on all parties within the statutory time to respond to a complaint pursuant to the Civil Practice Law and Rules. A motion is answered by filing and serving on the court and parties appearing in the action, a notarized affidavit in opposition or cross motion within the statutory time pursuant to the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

9. How can I vacate a default judgment or lien?

A motion or order to show cause with an affidavit in support must be filed with notice in the court where the judgment was entered and served on all parties in the action pursuant to the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

To vacate a default judgment in a consumer debt case you can use the courts' Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Form Program. It is a free and easy program that makes papers that help you tell a judge why you missed your court date or didn’t answer a summons and complaint in a consumer debt case."

10. How do I stop an eviction or foreclosure?

An order to show cause with a temporary restraining order and an affidavit of emergency together with a notarized affidavit in support must be filed with the Supreme Court in the county where the eviction or foreclosure is planned to take place. The litigant should bring a copy of the Sheriff’s Order of Eviction and the court order signed by the judge when seeking the order to show cause. If granted, all parties must be served with the court papers and must appear on the date selected by the judge. The judge will make a determination after hearing from both parties.

11. Where do I file a grievance against my attorney?

The authority to regulate and discipline lawyers in New York State is vested in the Appellate Divisions of the New York State Supreme Court. Each Appellate Division has one or more attorney grievance committees and each will accept and investigate written complaints.

12. How do I start an Article 78 proceeding?

File a verified petition with the County Clerk, Room 118, 851 Grand Concourse. Upon the filing of the petition and payment of appropriate fees ($210.00), an index number will be assigned. To calendar a Notice of Petition, first serve all papers, using the index number that was assigned, and then bring the Notice of Petition, Petition, Request for Judicial Intervention (with $95 fee), printout from the County Clerk and proof of service to Room 217 for approval. If moving by Order to Show Cause, all papers can be brought to Room 217 immediately after filing the petition.

13. What kind of information should be in the summons?

The summons must contain the following information: the name of the court; the caption box containing the names of the parties; the index number assigned by the court; the date the summons is filed with the County Clerk’s Office; the name, address and telephone number of the plaintiff or his/her attorney; and the name and address of the defendant(s). CPLR 305(a)

14. What kind of information should be in the complaint?

The complaint provides details of the plaintiff’s claim(s) against the defendant(s). It must describe the legal basis for each claim by stating the elements of each cause of action, how the defendant’s behavior or inaction caused harm, and what compensation plaintiff is entitled to receive. The facts should be recited clearly, concisely, and chronologically, providing specific dates and places. Lastly, your complaint should conclude with a paragraph describing all of the forms of relief you are seeking from the court. In certain actions, such as matrimonial cases, the complaint must contain a verification–that is, the plaintiff must swear to the truth of the allegations contained in the complaint. The rules regarding verifications are explained in section 3020 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

15. What forms of relief could the court grant me in a civil action?

The court has the authority to grant many different forms of relief. For example, the court can order a defendant to pay a sum of money, called damages, to the plaintiff to compensate for any injuries sustained. The court can also provide injunctive relief by ordering the defendant to act or refrain from acting in a particular way. In an action seeking a declaratory relief, the court determines the rights of each party in a dispute.

16. What format should I follow to generate a complaint?

Generally, a complaint (and all other documents submitted to this court) must be typed or legibly printed in English, black ink, double-spaced, using 8 ½ by 11 inch (letter-sized) paper and using one side of the paper only. The papers should be stapled or securely bound (CPLR 2101). For specific rules regarding the format and content of the complaint and other documents, consult Article 30 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

17. Why I do need to serve a Summons and Complaint or Summons with Notice to my adversary?

Basic notions of fairness require that the defendant be notified of the lawsuit so that he or she has the opportunity to put forth a defense. This notification process is known as "service."

18. What do I do after I have served my adversary with a Summons and Complaint or Summons with Notice?

After you have served all defendants with a copy of the summons and complaint, or summons with notice, then you must file proof of that service with the County Clerk’s Office. Failure to file proof of service may result in dismissal of the case. For more information on service, you should read the pamphlet entitled "How to Serve Legal Papers".

19. I have properly served the defendant(s) with the documents and I have filed my proof of service, what happens next?

Once served, the defendant has 20 to 30 days to "appear" or to serve the plaintiff with a responding document. The time in which to respond depends on where and how the defendant is served (CPLR 320). If the defendant is served with a summons and complaint, the responding document can be an "answer" or a motion for dismissal of the complaint. If the defendant is served with a summons with notice, the responding document is called the notice of appearance and demand for the "complaint." The plaintiff has 20 days from the date he or she receives the demand to serve the defendant with a complaint.

20. What is a Request for Judicial Intervention?

Although a lawsuit is commenced by the filing of the summons and complaint, or summons with notice, the case will not be assigned to a judge until one of the parties files a Request for Judicial Intervention. The first time a party needs judicial consideration of an issue in the lawsuit, he or she is required to purchase (for a $95.00 fee) and file a Request for Judicial Intervention. In most instances, the first time a case will come before the court is when a motion is made. A motion is an application to the court for an order resolving a dispute between the parties that occurs during the course of the lawsuit. The first motion made must contain a copy of the Request for Judicial Intervention form.

21. How do I change my name?

You can use the Supreme Court Adult Name Change Petition Program to change your name. The adult name change form is used to ask (or “petition”) the NY State Supreme Court to change your name. New York City residents can use the NY City Civil Court Adult Name Change Petition Program on the NYC Civil Court website.  The filing fee in New York City Civil Court is much less.

22. Where can I get more information about the courts?

For all New York State Courts courthouse information, locations, definitions, facts and forms please check out CourtHelp.

 


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