Parties to most Family Court proceedings have the right to have an attorney. You can hire an attorney of your choice. If your particular case is one where you have the right to an attorney, but you can't afford to pay for your own attorney, the court will generally assign one to the representative. Cornell Legal Aid and some neighborhood legal service groups can also provide legal help at no cost to people whose income falls below a certain level.
In New York City, each of the five counties has its own Family Court. A case can generally be filed free of charge in the county where one of the parties lives. If you need a custody order right away, you can file a motion for a temporary order. This is one way to get a temporary custody order while you wait for your case to go through the court system.
For example, you can ask the court to determine temporary custody, set a parenting schedule, or decide on child support. You can usually file a motion at the same time you file your lawsuit or before the court issues its final judgment.