Frederick J. Magovern


Frederick J. Magovern

Frederick J. Magovern

Frederick J. Magovern - partner

I graduated from Fordham Law School over 40 years ago and have specialized in family law ever since. At that time, the law was failing those most in need of protection – dependent and neglected children. Most were being warehoused in orphanages with little chance of reuniting with their absent or dysfunctional parents. Even those fortunate enough to live in loving foster homes rarely enjoyed the permanency of adoption. Ever since I have spent my career litigating to make it possible for these children to be adopted by their foster parents and defending these adoptive families once formed.

When I started my own practice in 1979, I had the good fortune to work with an extremely accomplished and well-respected trial attorney who recently died, Louis J. Martine. In the colorful language he often invoked, he told me, “Fred, anyone can try a case – it’s the lawyer who works the hardest who will prevail.” I have never forgotten those words, nor have I ever lost a case for lack of effort. I always work harder than my opponent to master the facts of the case and the relevant law. My record of success both at trial and on appeal reflects this work ethic. This intensity comes naturally having shouldered the enormous responsibility of representing families in such high-stakes cases. Nothing is more important to me or my partner Mary Jane than protecting a child’s emotional health and future well-being. We confront daily the enormous tragedy of neglected kids and enjoy the privilege of playing a part in new loving families come together. I’m proud to know this will be my legacy along with the ways I have helped improve adoption law in the State of New York.

Timeline Of Credentials

  • Manhattan College, B.A. – 1968
  • Fordham University, J.D. – 1971
  • Admitted to the New York State Bar – 1972
  • Admitted to practice before the US District Court, Southern & Eastern Districts of NY – 1973
  • Admitted to practice before the US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit – 1973
  • Admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court – 1981
  • Admitted to the Florida State Bar – 1986



  • “Indian Child Welfare Act in New York.” Government, Law and Policy Journal. Vol. 8, No. 1. 2006. Pages 65-9. Publication of the New York State Bar Association.
    [read article]
  • “Chapter 10: Contested Adoptions.” Adoption Law: Practice and Procedure in the 21st Century. 1997 & 2003. Publication of the New York State Bar Association.
    [read chapter]
  • “Balancing the Rights of Putative Fathers and Pre-Adopted Children in New York State.” Children’s Legal Rights Journal. Vol. 3, No. 6. 1982. Pages 26-9.
    [read article]
  • “Legislative Changes in the Wake of Caban.” New York Law Journal. 1980.
  • “Recent Legislative Change in the Social Service Law.” The Nassau Lawyer. 1976. Publication of the Nassau County Bar Association.


  • "Child Custody and Visitation in New York." National Business Institute. March 20, 2015.
    [read lecture handouts]
  • "Legal Rights of Unwed Fathers and Their Impact on New York Adoptions." Friends in Adoption. January 16, 2015.
    [read lecture handouts]
  • “The Sad Legal Odyssey of Baby Veronica.” Nassau County Bar Association. September 24, 2013.
    [read lecture handouts]
  • “What To Do If Something Goes Wrong.” National Business Institute. August 3, 2012.
    [read lecture handouts]
  • “Contested Adoptions.” Nassau County Bar Association. December 7, 2011.
    [listen to the lecture]
    [read lecture handouts]
  • “Contested Adoption/Appellate Practice.” Nassau Academy Of Law. March 2, 2009.
  • “Rights of Foster Parents.” New York State Judicial Institute. September 2004.
  • “Judicial Seminar: Termination of Parental Rights, Adoptions, and the Safe Families Act.” Family Court of State of New York. 1998.
  • “Contested Adoptions.” New York State Adoption Conference. November 19, 1995.
  • “Birthfathers’ Rights.” New York State Adoption Conference. November 20, 1994.
  • “Foster Care & Termination of Parental Rights.” Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department & University of Fordham Law School. 1994.
  • “Legal Aspects of Agency Adoption.” New York State Adoption Conference. November 22, 1992.
  • “Foster Care & Termination of Parental Rights.” Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department & University of Fordham Law School. November 14, 1991.
  • “Agency Surrenders After the 1990 Legislative Session: Requirements and Notes.” Crisis in Adoptions: The New Procedures in New York State, Out of State and International Adoptions. New York State Bar Association, Annual Meeting. 1990.
  • American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Annual Meeting. 1991.
  • “Foster Care & Termination of Parental Rights.” Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department & University of Fordham Law School. October 13, 1988.
  • Catholic Charities USA, Attorneys Conference. New Orleans. 1987.
  • “Matrimonial & Family Law.” Nassau County Bar Association. 1985.
  • Catholic Charities Group Home/Group Life Directors Meeting. June 1984.
  • “Mock Trial: Termination of Parental Rights.” Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department & New York City Bar Association. June 4, 1981.
  • “Law Everyone Should Know.” Nassau County Bar Association. January 2, 1980.
  • “Rights and duties of parents and children, the duty of support, injuries within families, and rights of illegitimate, adopted, and stepchildren.” Center for Law & Citizenship. July 17, 1980.

Professional Memberships

  • NYS Task Force on Permanency Planning for Foster Children – Board Member (1993-4)
  • American Academy of Adoption Attorneys – Fellow & Founding Member (1990)
  • NYC Mayor’s Public Child Fatality Review Committee – Mayoral Appointee (1986-7)
  • New York State Bar Association – Member, served on Family Law Committee
  • Nassau County Bar Association – Member, served on Matrimonial & Family Law Committee
  • American Bar Association – Member, served on Family Law Committee
  • National Council for Adoption – Member

Personal Memberships

  • Buckley Country Day School, Board of Trustees – Trustee (1997-2007), served as Chairman (2000-3)
  • Eastern Property Owner’s Assoc. of Garden City – Member, served on Nominating Committee


  • AV Martindale Hubbell, highest rating for legal skills & ethical practices – 25+ years
  • NY Times Top Attorneys in the NY Metro Area – 2007, 2009, 2011
  • Angel in Adoption, United States Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute – 2009
  • Adoption Advocate of the Year, Family Focus Adoption Services – 2009
  • NY Times “Super Lawyer” – 2007, 2009-14
  • Humanitarian Award, Catholic Home Bureau for Dependent Children – 2003
  • Consultant to An Bord Uchtála (Adoption Board), Irish Government – 1995
  • Testified as an adoption expert before the New York County Grand Jury investigating the Lisa Steinberg tragedy – 1986

Press - Television

  • “The Diana Family.” Adoption Stories. Discovery Health. July 13, 2004.
    [watch excerpts of episode]
  • “The Puzzling Story of Matthew Propp.” Larry King Live. CNN. June 17, 2002.
    [read transcript] – last segment, scroll far down the page
  • Good Morning America. ABC News. March 12, 2001.
    [watch segment]
  • “Should the People Who Raised Matthew Propp Go to Jail for Kidnapping Him?” Larry King Live. CNN. March 12, 2001.
    [read transcript]
  • “Adoptees Right to Know.” NewsTalk Television. March 1996.

Press - Radio

  • “Adoption.” Legally Speaking. WWRL 1600 AM. New York, NY. November 4, 2004.

Press - Print

  • “Adoption Case Haunts Participants.” New York Times. July 10, 2005.
    [read article]
  • “Prison Doesn’t End Scares of Boy’s 1980 Abduction.” New York Times. July 26, 2004.
    [read article]
  • “Smileys Go To Jail: Propp laments loss of his ‘parents.’” Newsday. July 31, 2002.
    [read article]
  • “Son Bids To Buy Freedom For His ‘Kidnap’ Parents.” New York Post. July 8, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Smileys’ Day in Court: Jury selection under way today.” Newsday. June 17, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Plea Deal Sought: 2 charged in ’80 kidnapping in court today.” Newsday. June 12, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Smiley Surrenders After 20 Years.” Newsday. June 7, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Amicable End Sought: As kidnapping case stalls, man seeks bond with son.” Newsday. April 26, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Top Judge Was Mother’s Lawyer.” Newsday. March 13, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Happily Ever After, It Seems.” Newsday. March 13, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Propp Set To Fly To NYC Today.” Newsday. March 11, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “A New Identity – Two Men Claim: ‘I’m His Father.’” Newsday. March 10, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Quest Comes to End: Abducted 20 years ago, son finally meets father.” Newsday. March 9, 2001.
    [read article]
  • “Court Denies Father’s Late Request to Overturn Adoption.” New York Times. October 28, 1992.
    [read article]
  • “Biological Dad Loses Again: Court rejects bid to regain son.” Newsday. October 28, 1992.
    [read article]
  • “Father Loses Custody Suit.” Newsday. January 19, 1992.
    [read article]
  • “Lisa’s Legacy: Tightening Loopholes – Adoption reforms made law.” Newsday. November 1, 1988.
    [read article]
  • “Adoption Lawsuit: Birth mother says she wasn’t counseled.” Newsday. May 12, 1988.
    [read article]
  • “Suit By Mother Over Adoption Tests State Law.” New York Times. July 21, 1986.
    [read article]
  • “Bid to Overturn Adoption Fails.” Newsday. April 11, 1986.
    [read article]
  • “Confusion Over Attorneys.” Newsday. December 6, 1985.
    [read article]
    [read referenced article]
  • “High Court to Get Adoption Appeal.” Newsday. November 26, 1985.
    [read article]
  • “Hearing Delayed In Adoption Suit.” Newsday. November 25, 1985.
    [read article]
  • “Couple Win Fight for Girl They Adopted.” New York Times. November 15, 1985.
    [read article]
  • “LI Couple Keep Adopted Child: Appeals Court Affirms Finality of Adoptions.” Newsday. November 15, 1985.
    [read article]
  • “Court Fight on Sarah K. Begins: Decision on Downs baby could rewrite adoption law.” Newsday. October 15, 1985.
    [read article]
  • “Bitter adoption fight ends.” Daily News. March 15, 1985.
  • “Foster Child Must Join Kin for 1 Day.” Newsday. March 5, 1983.
    [read article]
  • “2 win custody, but son has vanished.” Daily News. March 13, 1981.
    [read article]
  • “2 Couples Fight Over a Child: Adoptive parents flee after they are ordered to return child to real mother, father.” Newsday. March 12, 1981.
    [read article]
  • “Adoption pair abduct baby.” New York Post. March 12, 1981.


Mary Jane Sclafani

Mary Jane Sclafani

Background on Mary Jane coming soon.

Joanna Roberson

Joanna Roberson

Joanna roberson

I joined Magovern & Sclafani in 2006. For the first few years, I focused on trying cases for the child care agencies we represent. Since then I’ve specialized in appellate work, completing dozens of appeals. My goal is to see that each child’s court ordered adoption plan reaches fruition with finality as quickly as possible. That means thoroughly and expeditiously preparing, serving and filing our appellate briefs. There is nothing more rewarding to me than having the Justices of the Appellate Division accept my legal arguments to break the cycle of neglect and free children for adoption. As a mother of three, I'm especially proud of the work that we do to enable children to grow up in stable, loving homes.