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Hot Topics in Child Custody, Visitation & Guardianship for New York Practitioners 2020

Speaker(s): Dr. Sara L. Weiss, Ed.D., Hon. Dean Kusakabe, Hon. Judith Waksberg, Hon. Karen M.C. Cortes, Hon. Keith E. Brown, Hon. Llinét Rosado, Hon. Shahabuddeen A. Ally, Michael Scherz, Philip Katz, Sarah A. Tirgary, Tamara Schwarzman, Valerie A. Waldeier, Yusuf Elashmawy
Recorded on: Aug. 7, 2020
PLI Program #: 273517

Honorable Dean T. Kusakabe has been presiding as a Family Court Judge since his appointment in 2012. He currently handles Juvenile Delinquency proceedings in Queens County Family Court. Prior to this assignment, Judge Kusakabe presided over Custody, Visitation, and Family Offense proceedings in Kings County Family Court. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Kusakabe represented children in child protective and juvenile delinquency proceedings at the Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Division and parents in various Family Court proceedings as a member of the assigned counsel panel.

Judge Kusakabe serves on the New York State Commission on Parental Legal Representation, and is a member of the Attorneys for Children & Assigned Counsel Advisory Committee for the 2nd, 11th and 13th Judicial Districts. Judge Kusakabe is also a member of both the New York State Family Court Judges Association and the New York City Family Court Judges Association.

In 2012, Justice Rosado was elected to the Civil Court of Bronx County and was assigned to Bronx Family Court where she presided over custody, visitation, guardianship, paternity and family offense petitions.  In 2016, she was transferred to Bronx Supreme Court and presided over consumer credit cases and contested and uncontested divorces. In 2017, Justice Rosado began to preside over matrimonial actions, personal injury cases, and mental health proceedings as an Acting Justice. In 2018, she was elected Justice of Supreme Court, Bronx County where she currently presides over an IAS part.  She was designated as one of the Children’s Victim Act Justices in Bronx County.  Judge Rosado serves on the Matrimonial Curriculum Committee for the New York State Judicial Institute and the Gender Fairness Committee for the 12th Judicial District.   Prior to her ascension to the bench, Justice Rosado worked as a public defender, a law guardian, and a court attorney to several judges.  Since 1999, Judge Rosado has been teaching law classes as an adjunct professor at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College.

          Judge Rosado is a member of N.Y.C. Family Court Judges Association, the Bronx Bar Association, the Bronx Family Court Bar Association, the Bronx Catholic Guild, the Dominican Bar Association and the Puerto Rican Bar Association.  Judge Rosado is a board member of the Bronx Women's Bar Association, the NY chapter of Association of Families and Conciliation Courts, the Latino Judges Association, and the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition Advisory Board.  Justice Rosado volunteered as a coach for the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition for over a decade and her respective teams won the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competitions in 2013 and 2016.

Dr. Sara L. Weiss, Director of Heartland Psychological Services, P.C., is a licensed psychologist who has been practicing in New York for 35 years. Her primary focus is divorcing families, helping separating couples or divorced couples to develop and/or operationalize parenting plans. She is a court-appointed forensic evaluator, parent coordinator, and directs a program providing parent education modules for divorcing parents as well supervised visitation of parents (including therapeutic supervision).  

Dr. Weiss, a graduate of Harvard and Cornell, is a past president of the Clinical Division of the New York State Psychological Association, a former Mental Health Chairperson of the Interdisciplinary Forum, and she was a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University. She has lectured and written in the field of the psychology of divorcing families.  

Honorable Karen M.C. Cortes was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as a New York City Family Court Judge in January of 2019.  Judge Cortes currently presides over Child Protective and Custody, Visitation, Family Offense proceedings in Bronx County Family Court.  Judge Cortes previously served on the New York City Family Court Custody, Visitation, and Family Offense Operations Advisory Committee to the Administrative Judge of the New York City Family Court and the Bronx County Family Court Strategic Plan Implementation Team for Custody, Visitation, and Family Offense.


Prior to becoming a judge, Judge Cortes was a Court Attorney Referee for the New York City Family Court for four years presiding over custody, visitation, guardianship, and family offense cases and was a Court Attorney for the New York City Family Court for six years.  Judge Cortes also served for five years as a trial attorney in the Family Court Legal Services Division at the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”), where she tried and supervised hundreds of abuse and neglect trials.


Judge Cortes was formerly a member of the Family Court and Family Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association and Kings County Family Court Disproportionate Minority Representation Committee.  Judge Cortes is currently a member of the Bronx County Family Court Bar Association, New York State Women’s Bar Association - Bronx Chapter, New York State Family Court Judges’ Association, and Asian American Judges’ Association of New York State.


Judge Cortes earned her undergraduate degree from New York University and her law degree from Brooklyn Law School, where she was a recipient of the Judge Doris A. Thompson and Judge Edward Thompson Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy.

Michael Scherz has more than thirty years’ experience in public interest law, specializing in work with children and families, legal issues affecting people in poverty, and ethics.  Michael is Director of the Domestic Violence Project at Lawyers for Children, responsible for representation of children in custody, visitation, family offense, child protective, matrimonial and related proceedings as part of a collaborative interdisciplinary team.  Previously, as Senior Litigation Counsel, he was responsible for appeals, stay applications, and other litigation. 

Before joining Lawyers for Children, Michael was senior staff attorney and coordinator of training at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI).  Previously, Michael led the government benefits and special litigation units at New York Legal Assistance Group.  He began his career representing children in Family Court with the New York Legal Aid Society (Juvenile Rights).

Michael teaches the Legal Services and Public Interest Externship at Pace Law School.  He previously taught evidence, legal research, and criminal law classes at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY).  Michael has trained lawyers, social workers, and community organizers on a wide range of issues, including representation of children exposed to intimate partner violence, ethics, empowering people in poverty, examining bias and navigating cultural difference, rights of people with disabilities, access to health care, and legal issues relating to pro bono work.

Michael received his Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College (Columbia University), majoring in anthropology.  He received his J.D. from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law.

Yusuf is an experienced and highly regarded litigator with extensive experience in courts throughout New York City.  Mr. El Ashmawy is currently the head of the Criminal and Family Defense practices at Nelson, Robinson & El Ashmawy and has extensive litigation experience appearing regularly in Criminal and Family Courts in all five boroughs. 

Yusuf served as a prosecutor of child abuse and neglect cases in the Family Court Legal Services division of the Administration for Children’s Services for two years. In 2011 Yusuf was appointed to the assigned counsel panel, after receiving glowing recommendations from Judges, and colleagues from all sides of the table. Yusuf has served on the First Department assigned counsel panel since November of 2011 and presently sits on the Family Court Advisory Committee and Juvenile Justice Committee of the New York City Bar Association.  Yusuf is the Vice-President of the New York County Family Court 18-B association and has previously lectured on the topics of juvenile delinquency and child protective emergency hearings.

Yusuf has been dedicated to public service throughout his life and enlisted in the Navy out of high school. Upon receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy, Mr. El Ashmawy enrolled in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, from which he graduated, cum laude, with a degree in Government, with a concentration on law, policy and society and attended Valparaiso University School of Law. Yusuf was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.

Since September 2016, Valerie Waldeier has been a Court Attorney Referee in Kings County Family Court, hearing custody, visitation and family offense cases.  From 2010 until 2016 she was a Court Attorney in Kings County Family Court, where she worked with the Honorable Ilana Gruebel.  Previously, she was an attorney with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.  Ms. Waldeier received her J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law and her B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College. 

Tamara Schwarzman serves as a Court Attorney Referee in the Bronx County Family Court.  Referee Schwarzman presides over hearings and conferences in child custody, guardianship and order of protection matters.  Prior to sitting in the Bronx, she presided over permanency hearings in child protective, voluntary foster care, and destitute child cases in the New York County Family Court.  She also presided over the Transitional Planning Court Part (TPC).  The TPC uses specialized protocols to meaningfully include and enhance outcomes for youth aging out of foster care.  Prior to her appointment as a Court Attorney Referee, she served as a court attorney to the Hon. Sara P. Schechter, the Hon. Gloria Sosa-Lintner and the Hon. Marian Shelton in the NYC Family Court.  Referee Schwartz earned a B.S. from Northwestern University and a J.D. cum laude from Boston University School of Law. 

Philip Katz, Esq. has been a member of the firm of Fink & Katz, PLLC, a firm that concentrates its practice in the areas of Family Law and Criminal Law for 20 years.  He is bilingual; serving his clients in both the English and Japanese languages fluently.  He graduated with his JD from Hofstra Law School.  In addition to his work at Fink & Katz, PLLC, attorney Katz has also been a member of the Assigned Counsel Panel in the New York Family Court since 2011, the Part 36 Panel since 2014, sits as a member of the Family Court Advisory Committee for the Appellate Division, First Department, and serves as the current President of the New York Family Court Assigned Counsel Association, and Secretary of the Assigned Counsel Plan of the State of New York (ACA-NYS),.  In addition to representing adults, attorney Katz represents children in New York County Family Court and Supreme Court.  He is also an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Farmingdale State College.

Judge Shahabuddeen A. Ally is a member of the 2001 graduating class of Hofstra University School of Law.  Judge Ally began his legal career as a staff attorney with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services.  As a staff attorney, Judge Ally litigated cases involving child abuse and neglect.  Judge All appeared as lead counsel on hundreds of cases and at various stages of litigation including settlement conferences, discovery, compliance conferences, and trial.

Judge Ally then went to work for the New York City Law Department as an Assistant Corporation Counsel.  Judge Ally was assigned to the Family Law bureau where he prosecuted juvenile delinquency matters. Judge Ally started in the Bronx division where he prosecuted a range of cases from misdemeanors to serious felony cases. Judge Ally’s practice grew when he was appointed to the sex crimes prosecution unit, where he was solely responsible for the prosecution of all sex crimes in New York County. 

For a decade prior to his time on the bench, Judge Ally operated his own law practice specializing in Family and Criminal law.  Judge Ally was a member of the 18b panel where he provided indigent legal services to litigants in Family, Criminal and Supreme courts.  

Judge Ally’s judicial career began when he was elected to the Civil Court, Countywide, from New York County in 2018.  Judge Ally is the only candidate to ever be reported as “Most Highly Qualified” from three separate screening panels in one year.  Judge Ally is currently assigned to the Bronx Criminal Court.

Judge Ally is a firm believer in public service and community service. Judge Ally was the Chairman of Manhattan Community Board 12, Washington Heights and Inwood. Judge Ally currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Acacia Network, Community League of the Heights and the Armory Foundation. 

Judge Ally resides in Upper Manhattan with his wife, a Family Court Judge, his son and puppy.


Judith Waksberg is a judge of the Kings County Family Court in New York. She was first appointed to the court as an interim civil court judge by Mayor Bill de Blasio in July 2015, serving in family court. She was appointed to the family court in January 2017 and hears cases primarily involving custody, visitation, and orders of protection.
Prior to her appointment in 2015, Waksberg worked for the Legal Aid Society for 32 years, specializing in representing children in abuse, neglect, and juvenile delinquency cases.  She served as director of the Society's Juvenile Rights Appeals Unit for 17 years.  She represented the class of children before the New York State Court of Appeals which resulted in the landmark decision of Nicolson v. Scoppetta, 3 N.Y.3d 357, 820 N.E.2d 840, 787 N.Y.S.2d 196 (2004).  In addition, she has trained many attorneys on strategies for improving the coordination of appellate and trial representation of children and written on issues arising in the representation of children on appeal. Waksberg graduated from Brandeis University and earned her J.D. from New York University School of Law.