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Hot Topics in Child Custody, Visitation & Guardianship for New York Practitioners 2019

Speaker(s): Deborah Gould, Gail Adams, Hal Silverman, Hon. Dean Kusakabe, Hon. Javier Vargas, Hon. Judith Waksberg, Hon. Karen M.C. Cortes, Hon. Lillian Wan, Hon. Llinét Rosado, Hon. Shahabuddeen A. Ally, Janet I Neustaetter, Juanita Wing, Lauren Norton-Lerner, Monica Eskin, Philip Katz, Susan L. Bender
Recorded on: Apr. 9, 2019
PLI Program #: 249528

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.

After graduating from Stanford University, Deborah got her JD from St John’s Law School. She then worked at Legal Aid, Juvenile Rights Division where she represented children on Custody/visitation, delinquencies, neglects, and PINS cases. Deborah then went into the world of private business where she was a human resource manager/director for many years.

 In 2003, Deborah returned to her true passion: representing children in family court.She is currently the Co-Director of the Bronx Office of The Children’s Law Center.

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.

Referee Gail A. Adams was born in Guyana, South America.  After migrating to the United States, at the tender age of 16, she attended P.S. 275 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where her family resided.  She quickly rose to the top of her class graduating valedictorian and moving on to Martin Luther King Jr. High School in New York County.  At Martin Luther King, Jr., she progressed and excelled by achieving a full scholarship to Colgate University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in African American Studies and Sociology. 

After College, Referee Adams attended Touro Law Center in Huntington, NY, where she received her Juris Doctorate.  Her first job after law school was with the Nassau County Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division.  After three years with the Legal Aid Society, she went onto Upton, Cohen and Slamowitz where she handled debt collection and foreclosure work.  
In 2004, Referee Adams decided to go out on a limb and open a general practice private practice in Kings County. In private practice, she specializing in Landlord/Tenant, Family Law and Real Estate practice.  During this time, she has mentored many new lawyers and interns.

In 2012, Referee Adams closed her practice to join the Unified Court System as the Principal Law Clerk to the Honorable, Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of New York City.  As Principal Law Clerk, Referee Adams worked on matrimonial cases and served as a Referee in the foreclosure part in Queens County. She also was responsible for training Newly Admitted attorneys in the areas of Landlord and Tenant as well as Matrimonial practice through the Court’s volunteer Lawyers’ program.    

In 2015, Referee Adams was appointed a Referee with the Family Court and was assigned to New York County handling Custody, Visitation and Orders of Protection cases. 
Referee Adams’s proudest achievements are her loving husband and her two sons Jonathan and Brandon.  


Referee Lauren Norton-Lerner was hired as a Court Attorney Referee September of 2012 where she served the children and families of Bronx County Family Court until October of 2016.  She now serves in Queens County.  Ref. Norton-Lerner presides over custody, visitation, order of protection and guardianship cases as well as special immigrant juvenile status motions.  She has dedicated the better part to her 20 plus year career to Family Court and the children and families of NYC.  Prior to being a Referee she was a Court Attorney in Queens County Family Court for a number of years and early in her career an attorney and supervisor at the Administration for Children’s Services where she civilly prosecuted Article Ten cases and oversaw a team of six to ten attorneys.  She was in private practice as well doing real estate and insurance defense for turn and for a short period was an investigative attorney for the Feds. 


Referee Norton-Lerner serves on numerous committees both in Family Court and in her private life including Co-Chair of the City Wide Custody Visitation and Family Offense Operations Advisory Committee to the Administrative Judge and  NYC Bar Association Children and the Law Committee.  Further she sits on a committee at her alma mater Hofstra School of Law where she serves as Co-Chair of the Career Services Alumni Committee.  She is also very active in the NYC Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  She is a faculty member at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and of course the PLI.


Referee Norton-Lerner has taught numerous CLE’s over the years, including Custody v. Guardianship, Lease Terminations in Family Court, Service Issues in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Cases, and How Did We Get From Alison D. to Tri-Custody?:  A Timeline and Discussion.

The Honorable Javier E. Vargas has been a Judge of the Family Court of the State of New York, Kings County, since December 2015.  Prior thereto, Judge Vargas had served with distinction for the New York State Unified Court System since 1993 in various capacities, including as Senior Court Attorney at the New York State Court of Appeals; Principal Law Clerk in N.Y.S. Supreme Court and the Appellate Division; Chief Court Attorney for the Supreme Court’s Appellate Term; and, most recently, as a Civil Court Judge assigned to the Housing Part in Bronx County between 2013 and 2015.  Judge Vargas received his B.S. from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, his J.D. from SUNY School of Law, and an LL.M. from New York University School of Law in 1993. 

Judge Vargas is actively involved with the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) as a Regional Deputy President, the Latino Judges Association of N.Y., where he is the Treasurer, and the International LGBT Judges Association, as a Board Member.  Judge Vargas has lectured in various capacities and has received accolades, including the 2017 HNBA Latino Judge of the Year, a 2016 Special Recognition Award by the National Hispanic Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair, and the 2016 Annual Recognition by the Association of Housing Court Judges.  Among the other positions he has held are: HNBA Secretary of Elections, President-Elect of the Puerto Rican Bar Association (PRBA), Chair of the PRBA Scholarship Fund Selection Committee, selecting hundreds of law students scholarship recipients, and Co-Chair of the HNBA-NY Law School-Sin Limites Program, working with a team of HNBA members to mentor dozens of high school and college students on their path to law school.  Judge Vargas’s commitment and contributions to communities of color is further evidenced by his membership in charitable and professional associations, including the New York City Bar Association and Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York,

Hal Silverman is the Director of Litigation for Lawyers for Children, Inc. Prior to his position with Lawyers for Children, Inc., Mr. Silverman was a staff attorney with the Juvenile Rights Division of The Legal Aid Society. He has worked in the field of child advocacy for over twenty-five years. Mr. Silverman has represented children in proceedings involving issues of neglect, abuse, termination of parental rights, custody, adoption, PINS, and juvenile delinquency. Prior presentations include "Legal and Mental Health Collaboration in Child Maltreatment and Custody Issues"; "Domestic Violence - The Effects on Children"; "Mediation in Family  Court": "Conflicts of Interests - Ethical Responsibilities of an Attorney for the Child" and "Broken Adoptions - A Child's Return to the Foster Care System."

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.

Juanita E. Wing graduated Cum Laude from St. John’s University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies in 1994. She then attended St. John’s University School of Law and graduated in 1997 with her Juris Doctor Degree. She was admitted to the New York State Bar, 2nd Department, in 1999. She is also admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  She worked as an attorney in private sector real estate and bankruptcy law for several years (1997 – 2000).  
 In 2000, Ms. Wing became a Staff Attorney for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, prosecuting abuse and neglect cases in New York County Family Court. In late 2001, Ms. Wing was employed by District Council 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services Plan. While serving as a Staff Attorney at the Union for five years, she represented parents and other adults in Family Court in custody, guardianship, paternity, family offense, neglect and abuse defense, and visitation cases. 
 In July 2006, Ms. Wing opened her own private family law practice in Jamaica, Queens, as well as, joined the Court Appointed Counsel Panel and Attorneys for Children Panel in Queens County Family Court. She represented both adults and children in all matters in Family Court. 
In 2010, Ms. Wing was appointed as a Court Attorney Referee for the New York City Family Court. She served on the bench in Bronx County from 2010 to late 2014 in the custody, guardianship, visitation, and family offense specialty.  She then transferred to Queens County Family Court, where she presently presides over these same specialty cases. 
Ms. Wing has taken an active role in numerous legal and public service associations. She is a member of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association and the Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association. She serves on the Family Law and Family Court Committee for the New York City Bar Association. Ms. Wing volunteers as a Girl Scout Leader and is actively involved in various public service events and projects performed by her sorority Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  
Ms. Wing has presided over moot court competitions sponsored by St. John’s Law School, the New York State Bar Association, and the Legal Outreach Program. She has lectured and has been a panelist at many community and legal forums and seminars.


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.


Judge Wan was appointed to the New York State Court of Claims by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 20, 2018.  Judge Wan is currently designated as an Acting Supreme Court Justice in New York County Supreme Court, Civil Division.  Judge Wan presides over an Integrated Guardianship Part, where she hears cases involving tenants who are the subject of both a Civil Court, Housing Part case and a Supreme Court Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 case.  Prior to that Judge Wan was a Family Court judge, appointed to the bench by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2012, and served in both Bronx County Family Court and Kings County Family Court hearing cases involving child abuse and neglect, custody, visitation, family offenses and juvenile delinquency.  Judge Wan also presided over “crossover youth” cases which involved children in foster care who are subsequently arrested and enter the juvenile justice system.  Prior to taking the bench, Judge Wan was a Court Attorney-Referee in Kings County Surrogate's Court where she handled adoption, guardianship, and trusts and estates matters.  In this capacity, Judge Wan conducted pre-trial and settlement conferences with attorneys and self-represented litigants and presided over guardianship hearings involving disabled adults and kinship hearings to determine who inherits an estate.  Judge Wan also served for nine years as a trial attorney at the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) in the Family Court Legal Services Division, where she tried and supervised hundreds of abuse and neglect trials.  

Judge Wan earned her undergraduate degree from Binghamton University and her law degree from Albany Law School, where she served on the Albany Law Review.  Judge Wan formerly chaired the Family Court and Family Law Committee at the City Bar, served on the City Bar’s Nominating Committee, and is now serving on the Encourage Judicial Service Committee.  Judge Wan was also appointed to serve on the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.  Judge Wan also serves as a board member for the Brooklyn Women's Bar Association.  Judge Wan also served on the board of the New York State Family Court Judges Association and was the past Vice President and Secretary of the New York City Family Court Judges Association.  Judge Wan was recently elected as President of the Asian American Judges Association of New York.    
Judge Wan has also been selected to serve on the Unified Court System’s Advisory Committee on Court Interpreting and the Appellate Division Second Department Mental Health Professional Certification Committee, a committee charged with assessing the qualifications of potential court appointed mental health experts.  Judge Wan is the former co-chair of the Government and Public Sector Committee for the Asian American Bar Association of New York.  Judge Wan has been an active participant in the National Association of Women Judges “Color of Justice” Program, which has been geared towards introducing NYC high school students to the legal profession.  Judge Wan regularly participates in various “Meet the Judges” events in the community and has presented on career panels at various NYC schools.


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. 


Monica Studdert Eskin has been practicing law for almost twenty-five years with a specialization in family law and matrimonial law for the last twenty years.  Monica is a New York native who was born in the Bronx, raised in Queens and attended college and law school in New York and she has dedicated her career towards helping other New Yorker’s with their family law needs.

Monica has been a member of the Bronx County Assigned Counsel Plan since 2001 and has maintained a private law practice with her husband David Eskin since 1995.  She has represented over a thousand litigants in areas such as custody and visitation, orders of protection, child protective matters, child support, paternity and estoppel, adoption, juvenile delinquency, PINS matters and divorce.  Monica has represented petitioners, respondents and children in these various proceedings.  Additionally, Monica is also a member of the Part 36 law guardian panel where she is frequently appointed to represent children in matrimonial proceedings in Bronx Supreme Court.
Monica is a member of the Bronx Bar Association, Matrimonial and Family Court Committee; Bronx Family Court Bar Association and Bronx Women’s Bar Association.  Additionally, Monica has lectured and conducted numerous CLE programs for other lawyers and members of the judiciary. 


Susan L. Bender was admitted to practice law in the State of New York in 1980.  Susan has an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell.  In the over thirty-nine years that she has been in practice, matrimonial practice has occupied approximately ninety (90%) percent of her time.
Ms. Bender is a Fellow of the American College of Family Trial Lawyers.  She is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and a former Vice President of the New York Chapter.
Chief Administrative Judges Ann Pfau and A. Gail Prudenti appointed Susan to serve on the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee of the New York State Office of Court Administration, and most recently, the Honorable Justice Peter Tom appointed Susan to the Board of Governors of the New York State Attorney-Client Fee Dispute Resolution Program.
Ms. Bender was appointed by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to the New York Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, and is a former member of the Advisory Committee on Civil Practice having been appointed by former Chief Administrator of OCA, Matthew T. Crossen.  She was appointed by Judge Betty W. Ellerin to the First Department Judicial Committee to Certify Law Guardians.  She was appointed by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to the Matrimonial Commission chaired by the Honorable Sondra Miller.  She was appointed by Justice John T. Buckley to the Law Guardian Advisory Committee of the Appellate Division, First Department.  
Ms. Bender is a past President of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) and remains a member of WBASNY.  She is a former Chair of the New York City Bar Matrimonial Committee.  Ms. Bender is a former member of the Interdisciplinary Forum and formerly a member of its Executive Committee.  She is a founding member, former Vice President, Secretary and current board member of Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA); a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association Family Law Committee; a member of LeGal (Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association); and a member of the American Bar Association Family Law Section.
Ms. Bender is routinely chosen to be included in “The Best Lawyers in America” published by Woodward/White, Inc. and is routinely named a “Super Lawyer.”


For the past 15 years, Janet Neustaetter has been an appellate attorney at The Children’s Law Center (“CLC”), a nonprofit law firm that represents children in custody, visitation, guardianship, paternity, family offense, and related child protective proceedings in the Family Courts and the Integrated Domestic Violence Parts of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, and in appeals therefrom.  She has supervised the writing/appellate unit at CLC for the past 10 years.  During that period, she has written and edited briefs, and presented oral arguments in connection with hundreds of appeals to the Appellate Divisions in the First and Second Departments, in family law-related cases, involving issues of custody, visitation, guardianship, paternity and equitable estoppel, child support, family offenses, neglect and abuse proceedings, and other related topics.  She also has been involved in writing of countless trial-level documents for submission in the Family Courts in the Kings, Bronx, Queens, and Richmond County Family and IDV Courts, and has spent many hours strategizing with CLC trial lawyers regarding the myriad legal issues that arise when representing children in the Family Court.  In 2018, Janet received the New York City Bar Association’s Kathryn A. McDonald award for Excellence in Service to the Family Court.

Prior to her years at CLC, Janet was a law clerk for the Hon. Lawrence W. Pierce on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and for the Hon. John S. Martin, Jr. on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  She also worked for the law firms of Davis Polk & Wardwell and Schulte Roth & Zabel.  Before going to law school, Janet was a social worker at the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Division, and for Henry Street Settlement.