If you have ever consulted with an attorney about getting a divorce or a child custody case, you were most likely dealing with an attorney specializing in family law. What exactly is family law, though, and what sort of cases does a family law attorney handle for real clients? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about what family law entails.
Family Law Definition
Family law is a specific segment of litigation in the legal system that focuses on issues related to domestic matters, families, and children. These are some of the most emotionally-challenging cases heard in the court system – issues that cause great stress on the individuals involved in the case and have long-term consequences on family relationships.
A family law attorney is specially trained to deal with sensitive family law matters. They must be skilled negotiators as many cases can be handled out of court with a mediator, but they must also have skills as a litigator if the case goes to court. A family law attorney plays an important role in difficult family legal matters. It is a job that is both demanding and rewarding.
Cases Handled by Family Law
When you think of family law attorneys, you might immediately think of a divorce lawyer or an attorney for a child custody case. While these are two important roles of a family law attorney, as you’ll see from the list below, family law is a broad area of law and a variety of other cases related to family law.
While marriage is the union between two individuals that love and care for each other, it is also a binding legal agreement. When a marriage ends, that legal agreement must be officially terminated. Each party in the marriage seeks a divorce lawyer so the court system can certify the divorce.
Division of Assets and Liabilities
In addition to legally terminating the marriage, a family law attorney may also be called in for matters related to the division of marital property and debts. This involves determining which assets and liabilities are jointly owned and finding a “just and right” way to divide them up.
Spousal support, also called alimony, is also something that can be negotiated by a divorce lawyer. This is when the lower-earning spouse receives additional support from the higher-wage earner during or after the divorce proceeding. A divorce lawyer can negotiate for his or her client to get temporary support (while the divorce is being finalized), short-term, long-term, or even permanent support.
If a marriage ends and there are children involved, a family law attorney will also be involved in the legal process of the child custody hearing. In this legal matter, the court will decide who will get primary custody of the children and arrange visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. Child custody cases are very emotional and stressful events, requiring a skilled family law attorney to negotiate the best child custody arrangement possible.
There is typically a second issue in child custody cases – the calculation of child support payments. The parent who is awarded primary custody in the child custody hearing will typically receive additional support from the other parent. However, child support can also be awarded in cases where there is a shared parenting agreement, with the parent who makes the most money providing additional support to the other.
Adoption and Foster Care
Adoptions are also handled by a family law attorney. An adoption is a legal proceeding where the parental rights of the original parent must be terminated, and those rights are passed on to the adoptive parents.
A similar circumstance happens in foster care cases. In these court proceedings, foster placement and temporary custody are assigned.
Paternity is when the court determines a child’s biological father. Once paternity is established, a family law attorney will typically proceed with child custody and child support hearings.
When a child reaches the age of sixteen, that child can seek to legally emancipate themselves from their parents. This decision must be made in the court system, so legal separation emancipation cases are handled by a family law attorney.
Family law can also include cases related to same-sex marriage, common law marriage, domestic partnerships, juvenile justice, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect.
Any person seeking a divorce, help with a child custody case, or help with any of the other above-stated legal issues will need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Remember, family legal cases are very stressful and emotionally charged, but a good family law attorney with special skills and training can help you through this difficult situation.