Family law addresses domestic relations and other family-related issues. Most family lawyers offer legal representation for clients undergoing divorce and other complications associated with divorce, such as child custody and support, division of marital property, and alimony. A family lawyer may also draft prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and litigate related matters. Additionally, a family lawyer can represent a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence in civil protection order proceedings or defend clients accused of domestic violence in criminal proceedings. Other areas under family law include adoption and guardianship, child abuse and neglect, and juvenile delinquency. Here are the most common issues a family lawyer will address:
Divorce is perhaps the most stressful experience someone can ever experience. When couples who have been living together for a while part ways, the family unit is altered, bringing a lot of uncertainties regarding property division, spousal support, and child custody and visitation.
What a divorce lawyer does is to provide comfort to clients undergoing divorce by striving to make the process as smooth as possible and explaining the complex laws that govern divorce proceedings in layman terms. Other than legal representation in courts, a family lawyer takes a practical, friendly, and compassionate approach in handling all aspects of divorce, including paternity suits, allegations of domestic violence, and dissolution of civil unions.
Sometimes, a family lawyer may utilize mediation or various negotiation techniques to minimize divorce expenses and expedite the proceedings. This allows all parties to quickly move on with life, minimize the emotional effects involved in a divorce, and safeguard the wellbeing of children.
2- Child custody
When a marriage that involves children comes to an end, the most important determination in the divorce settlement is child custody and visitation plans that will work for the best interest of the child. A family lawyer will advocate for the interests of the child during preliminary custody negotiations or when the issue is brought before a judge.
Other than child custody and visitation, a family lawyer can advise and represent clients regarding the modification of custody and visitation plans, parental move aways and relocations, and paternity as it pertains to custody and visitation.
3- Post-Decree Modification
Even after the court has settled a divorce by registering a divorce decree and approving the divorce settlement, there are multiple family issues that can crop up down the line. For example, if a parent loses income, there may be a need to request the modification of the child support order. Consequently, as the child’s needs change, the need to modify visitation or parenting time may arise.
Through post-decree modifications, a family lawyer can help clients deal with changing circumstances of life long after the divorce was settled. Post-decree disputes may also encompass issues involving interpretation disputes, enforcement actions, and modification requests.
4- Division of the Marital Estate
In marital property states, assets and debts acquired by couples during the marriage should be divided equitably between the spouses upon divorce, annulment, or legal separation. Marital property can include pretty much anything of value, including bank accounts, real estate equity, vehicles, personal and household properties, stock options, business interests, frequent flyer miles, etc.
In some instances, the parties may fail to agree on the value of marital assets, which calls for professional appraisal or assessment. In many cases, couples are required to pay the assessment fee before the property is divided. For instance, if the couples owned a condominium and they haven’t paid their assessment, the resolution of the division of marital estate might delay further as the court awaits the appraisal report. In such an instance, a family lawyer may have to negotiate with the home-owner Association attorney to resolve the debt before the condo can be granted to one of the parties to the divorce.
Overall, family lawyers harbor a wide range of legal skills that help them draft and negotiate pleadings, contracts, and other legal documents related to family issues. They also represent clients in litigating contested matters, advise clients on their legal rights and options, and apply mediation skills to resolve disputes amicably. They often harbor exceptional interpersonal skills and are adept at managing emotionally volatile situations associated with divorce and domestic abuse.