What is Family Law?

The field of family law can be described as a practice focussed on family-related issues, including adoption, marriage, divorce, child custody, to name a few. Lawyers who practice legal matters related to a family can represent clients in court proceedings involving family or any related negotiations. They also draft crucial legal documents like property agreements or court petitions.

A few family law lawyers are experts in paternity, adoption, or emancipation, things that aren’t usually associated with divorce. The subject of family encompasses all aspects of life. Lawyers who practice in this field, thus, assist all types of people who are facing all sorts of delicate issues that a lot of people would not immediately think fall under the umbrella of family law.

This article is a brief introduction to family law and the legal implications.

Helpful Terms to Know

  • Emancipation: A court procedure by which a minor becomes self-supporting and assumes responsibility as an adult for their welfare and is no longer in the care of their parents.
  • Marital Property: Property acquired by either spouse in the marriage, which can be divided after divorce.
  • Alimony: An allowance given for one partner by the other to assist during or following divorce or legal separation.
  • Paternity: Origin or descent from the father (to prove paternity, it is necessary to prove the parent’s birth father).
  • Prenuptial Agreement: An agreement signed by males and females before they get married by which they agree to waive any future rights to each other’s assets in case of separation or death.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

The majority of family lawyers can represent their clients during divorce procedures and other divorce-related matters. However, family law is a broader practice area that includes matters such as children’s rights and foster care. Because family law issues are at the heart of your family, having a reliable legal professional on your side will help make sure your loved ones are adequately represented and protected throughout any legal proceedings.

The most popular motives to engage an attorney for family law include:

  • Divorce The spouses each hire an attorney who assists in drafting the settlement plan to avoid trial. Divorce lawyers are generally proficient in dividing the marital property, calculating the amount of spousal support, and recommending a plan for visitation with children and child support (if appropriate).
  • Child Custody Child Custody Child Support: Court orders and settlement agreements that cover support and custody typically are part of the larger divorce but can be reviewed if conditions change. For example, the child support amount can be changed if the custodial parent’s financial situation alters.
  • Paternity: In most instances, paternity cases are filed by mothers to seek child support from a father who has not been present. However, sometimes biological fathers are required to file paternity cases to establish a relationship with the child. The most common method of determining paternity is DNA tests.
  • Adoption Foster Care: Adoption is complex and differs based on the kind of adoption, the country from which the child comes from, and the state of adoption, as well as variations in in-laws as well as other variables. This is why it’s crucial to talk to an attorney for family law. Foster parents can take their children in foster care; however, foster care doesn’t necessarily require legal representation.

Related Practice Areas

Family law can be found in numerous other areas of legal practice. For instance, domestic violence or child abuse cases usually require criminal investigation (and could lead to arrests and/or charges). In addition, the family courts are charged with determining the best method to protect victims and create the safety of all those affected. Other legal practice areas are:

  • Mediation and Collaborative Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Immigration and Naturalization Law

Marriage and Divorce Laws Vary by State

States have the power to establish “reasonable formal requirements” for marriage, including the age of marriage and legal capacity, along with guidelines and procedures applicable to divorce and other lawful family issues.

The duration of the divorce process, as an example, is dependent on where you live. Certain states have laws on divorce that have an interval of time. It has been historically an issue of state law. Before the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, certain states had limited the marriage (and the divorce process) to couples who were not of the same gender.

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