Family Law Attorney
Understanding the Family Law
Ever since the evolution of the human race, the family structure is the most dynamic component in holding communities in place and in building successive societies. So, when the leaders of the different regions decided on matters to make laws about, they could not have possibly skipped the family law.
There is nothing more important for a country than its people living peacefully among themselves and sharing a bond of love, trust, and commitment as a family. As much as we try to portray a happy image of the family and its sacred values, some unfortunate circumstances call for the need of the legal bodies to handle issues. And that need for the problem resolution among the members of the family; either by blood or marriage, give birth to the branch of law, we know as the family law.
What Is Meant by Family Law?
Family law can be best explained as a branch of the US legal system that deals with legal issues and household complications through a lawful process. The family law is comprised of an official body that sets and governs the laws regarding individuals sharing a family or a home.
The family law deals with the conflicts between the members that are either married, in a romantic relationship, or related by a blood bond. Apart from that, all issues of distant families, grandparents, stepchildren, and unmarried relationships are also dealt with by this branch of law. All the private and public cases pertaining to the adoption, custody, name changes, and guardianship of a child are handled in the family courts.
The field of family law is broader than the name represents. All the incidents from the physical and psychological violence towards a family member, marital rape, child abuse, domestic violence, abusive relationship, and marital harassment are resolved using the family law.
The leaders of the justice system in the US have also established laws about property distribution, will composition, heritage, and division of assets among family members. Such laws hold the people that are on the wrong side accountable and keep the communities peaceful and worth living. Family law ensures the safety, protection, human rights, heritage rights, education, health, marriage, and well-being of all the citizens of a country.
Types of Legal Cases Handled by the Family Law
The nature of the cases in the family courts is extremely diverse, which is why there are so many broad categories for a family law attorney to specialize in. Although all of the domestic and family issues come under the wide umbrella of civil law, the family courts handle all of those conflicts.
Here is a list of the famous type of legal cases that family law deals with:
Parental Rights Termination
Under the US family law, when a parent or both parents are considered unfit to raise a child in their care, the family court has the authority to terminate their parental rights and send the child to foster care. The termination could be due to domestic violence, abuse towards the child, drugs and alcohol consumption, neglected parenting, self-harm, unstable mental condition, and other relevant issues.
Adoption and Foster Care
The cases of the children in foster care after their parental relationship has been terminated for the safety and well-being of the child, are also handled by the family law. Those children either stay in the foster homes under legal supervision or someone close to the child, such as an uncle, grandparent, or family friends can adopt them. If the termination of the parental rights continues and the child turns 18, the family courts are no longer responsible for the foster care of that child.
Name Change Cases
At any stage in life, if a child or a grown citizen of the country decided to change his/her name, they can file a case for the name change. There are specific rules and guidelines for changing one’s name in the family law. You can either go to family courts for the name change of your child, your name, your family name or make amendments on the birth certificate, in case of mistakes.
Child Custody and Visitation
The rate of marriage separation and divorce is very high in the US, and so is the number of custody cases in the family courts. When a clash occurs between the spouses, they can file for the custody of their child under family law. Either one or both parents can demand custody of their child, despite being married or not. The family courts grant physical, legal, joint, or sole custody to either one of the parents. The non-custodial parent gets the visitation rights if the other parent has no further objections. Even the timings and schedules of the child’s visitation for the other parent are decided under the court of family law.
Dissolution of Marriage
Couples that are unable to make their marriages work for whatever reasons can file for the dissolution of marriage. The marriage dissolution can be done through divorce, separation, and annulment, depending on the couple. If a couple wants to end their marriage by divorce, the family court simply issues a court order and after some paperwork the divorce is final. The same goes for annulment, although it may get complicated sometimes to find solid reasons for the annulment. And in the legal separation, the property division and the child custody cases arise.
Although juvenile cases including the children involved in illegal acts and street crimes are commonly handled by the juvenile district divisions, the family courts approve or disapprove the major decisions. The cases of child abandonment and child abuse are also dealt with by the family courts for children under the age of 14.
When the parents of a child die, someone is made a legal guardian of that child. It can either be the older sibling, aunt, uncle, or a grandparent, who can offer to be the legal and physical guardian of the child. Guardianship is for someone unable to care and provide for themselves, such as minors, babies, and children.
Members of a family trying to seek refuge and safety from a violent household can get in touch with the family courts and get justice. Family law has a wide range of punishments and penalties for violent persons and safety measures for the victim. The family court ensures the protection of the victim from any kind of violence faced in a household, be it physical or emotional.
Cases of conflicts between the couples about property, money, children, safety, and abuse are registered in the field of family law. From the cases of harassment to marital rape, the family court provides a complete set of guidelines, protection, and justice to the victim and the appropriate punishment for the oppressor.
Getting A Family Law Attorney
If you are facing an issue that falls in the category of family law cases, the foremost thing to do is to get a good family law attorney. The family lawyers are specialized in dealing with all the above-mentioned family cases and many others as well. Having a family law attorney not only proves beneficial when you encounter a problem, but it also helps you throughout your lifetime. From your birth to your will, everything is handled by the family lawyers, so it is an excellent idea to hire a family lawyer, no matter what stage of life you are at.
The Job of A Family Lawyer
The most important job that a family law attorney has is to resolve the issues at a familial level as well as to provide the best legal advice at a domestic level. Their job is to attend to the problems faced by the members of a family and try to give them the best possible solution for that in terms of their legal rights. They also attend the mediation sessions between the couples and other family members to get them out of the legal trials and jury hearings.
The family lawyers are responsible for creating all the essential paperwork for your case and then organizing it according to your case. Unfortunately, if you have to file a case against one of the family members, your family lawyer will analyze and review all of the official and legal documents needed for the lawsuit.
Apart from that, they gather the appropriate evidence and the witnesses that might be needed in some of the hostile custody or divorce cases. Family lawyers conduct thorough interviews with the clients as well as the members of the society that are related to the case, such as the witnesses or other family members. They have a responsibility to answer to their clients at any time if there is even a slight change in the case file or some kind of progress.
Preparation of all the legal proceedings of the cases such as the jury selection, schedules, and timings of the hearings, mediation center meetings, court representation, and the final trial is included in the job of a family lawyer.
Once you understand the need and the job description of a family lawyer, the next thing to do is to hire one. There is a step-by-step process that needs to be followed so that you don’t end up with deceitful people mimicking to be family lawyers.
- The first thing for hiring a family law attorney is to figure out whether or not you fall on the criteria of getting a family lawyer by the court. This is necessary because many people come to know that they could have gotten an attorney from the court after spending thousands of dollars on hiring a private lawyer for their case. The major element of that criteria is based on your salary or income, so do your research for that.
- If you get a court-appointed lawyer, that’s great, but if not then begin your research for the best and most credible lawyers around your area. There are many law firms and law directories in the US like Halt Law Directory that provide all the necessary information about attorneys at your fingertips. Lookup for the family law attorneys and not just general lawyers because specialized lawyers have better chances at winning the case.
- Shortlist some of the family lawyers that match your criteria and have extensive prior experience in that area. After that, you have to make sure that the lawyer you are about to hire has membership in the American Bar Association under the branch of family law. You can do so, by consulting the bar association and confirming their affiliation directly.
- Once you finalize a lawyer that fits you best, schedule a meeting or an interview session online or in-person to discuss the case and their rates for working for you. Take complete notice of all the charges they mention so that you don’t end up with any hidden fees later on. Family lawyers charge differently according to the case and its category. Once the attorney is hired, be extremely honest with them so that they can help you win the case.
Major Categories of Family Lawyers
Just like the term family law is more diverse than just divorce and custody, the categorization of the family law attorneys is reasonably far-fetched too. Each type of family lawyer deals with a significant array of cases that extend to their expertise. To break it down you, here are the major categories of family law attorneys you can get.
These lawyers are responsible for bringing your case into the court in front of the entire jury and speak on your behalf. The more credible a custody lawyer is, the greater will be your chances of winning the custody case of your child. Having a custody lawyer during the entire family court proceeding increases your chances of getting custody. Those attorneys are specialized in what they do and they will help you make wise decisions during the court hearings.
Such lawyers address the problems regarding the abuse of a child, abuse at the domestic level, and abuse between the couples. They fight for the person who has been a victim of the abuse and tries their best to get the protection and justice they deserve. Abuse lawyers are also hired by people who have been wrongly accused of an abuse case and those lawyers are to protect them. The abuse lawyers protect the victim by helping them apply for a restraining order. The violation of the restraining order has severe implications in different states of the US.
One of the common types of family law attorneys is divorce lawyers, who help the spouses at every step if a couple has decided to call it quits. Since separation and divorce are scary matters in terms of emotional and financial pressure, having a divorce lawyer makes things smooth.
The divorce lawyers advise the couples on the pros and cons of the negotiation, the property settlements after separation, child custody issues, and paying off the debts. In some cases, the issue is resolved through mediation centers but if not then the divorce attorney is responsible for handling all the legal matters of your separation and present the legal options best suited for you.
Civil Union Lawyers
Civil union lawyers are there to help people secure their legal contracts after they get married. Once a couple gets married, all that they own and everything they invest in together becomes joint property. The civil union lawyers organize and establish joint accounts, prenuptial contracts, and postnuptial agreements for the spouses. All the issues related to paying the joint debt after one of the spouses dies or gets separated fall under the duties of the civil union attorneys.
Adoption and Guardianship Lawyers
Many couples who can not have children of their resort to adopting children from foster care or orphanages. The adoption lawyers have to ensure that the child gets the best home and the adopted parents are capable to care for him/her. With the rising LGBT movements, adoption lawyers are helping several same-sex couples adopt babies and children as well. The guardianship lawyers, on the other hand, are responsible for placing the child in the care of an eligible guardian, after the death of the parents. They make sure that the guardian can perform his/her duties well and look out for the child properly.
Points to Ponder When Appointing A Family Attorney
No matter how careful people are in hiring the right family attorney for their case, mistakes and misunderstandings can occur that lead to the failure of the case. To avoid regrets and to have a greater probability of winning your case, here are a few points you should remember while appointing a family lawyer:
When hiring a lawyer for your family case, you have to be mindful of the location of your lawyer. Certain state laws prohibit lawyers from far areas to represent you in your case. Getting a lawyer that can practice where you live has benefits of its own. You can get in touch with them readily and in case of emergency, they will be present with you. As the case proceeds from both parties, what if you need your lawyer at an unexpected time in the court and they can’t make it because of the time and distance. So choose a lawyer near your area.
- Specialized Lawyer
Get a specialized lawyer instead of a general practice lawyer, because they have better availability and experience. General lawyers may not charge as much as the specialized ones do but they have a lot of time to focus on your case. Whereas, the general practice lawyers are occupied with cases of different nature which is why they may not have enough time for you.
- Nature Of the Case
Understand the nature of your case and its complexity before hiring a family law attorney. For example, some cases such as divorce, property, and custody can turn hostile from both parties. For such cases, you have to get in touch with a lawyer that has a reputation for being aggressive, to deal with the pressure. Similarly, if the situation is not so bad with your partner or the other family member, you may even choose a mediating lawyer to solve the problem.
- Style and Communication
The saying that the first impression is the last impression comes in handy when deciding on which lawyer to appoint for your case. One thing that you should not ignore in the first consultation meeting is how that lawyer communicates with you. As communication is the most essential part of any legal case, you should be able to talk comfortably with the lawyer. If that doesn’t happen, then you have to move on to the next family law attorney, because communication is the key to winning your case. Another important thing that you should notice in the first meeting is the style and personality of the lawyer. The style of the lawyers varies from aggressive and impulsive to calm and polite, so you have to choose wisely.
Merits of Having A Family Lawyer
There are so many paybacks to having a family law attorney by your side, they help you in the hardest parts of your life. Here are the key benefits you get by having a family lawyer.
They save time
For someone who has not yet been in a family law case, will never know how hectic and time-consuming it is, especially if you are doing it all alone. Having a family lawyer saves you so much time because they are responsible for handling, organizing, and analyzing the important paperwork for you. With a family law attorney, you do not have to visit the court again and again for every small matter, your lawyer will do it for you, which saves a lot of your energy and time.
They Provide Emotional Support as Well
Since family law is a branch of law that deals mostly with the emotional bondings of the people, family lawyers have to be passionate and empathetic. Having a family lawyer for a long time establishes a bond of trust, you can talk to them even when you have no legal case going on. They provide emotional and legal advice for you. They also guide their clients in important life decisions like starting a business, marriage termination, moving to a new place, etc.
They Enhance Your Legal Knowledge
Being in touch with your attorney regularly increases your level of legal understanding because he/she has extensive knowledge of the family law that is being transferred to you indirectly. You learn new terminologies and legal facts that you might not be able to comprehend without them. Working closely with a lawyer for your case gives you confidence and knowledge of the legal proceedings, which can be helpful if you find yourself in a similar situation again.
They Save You from Loss
In family law cases that are about heritage or property distribution conflicts, you can easily get stitched by the other party, if you don’t understand your legal rights. Many people who handle their cases themselves thinking it’s about the family, always end up with some kind of loss, either financial or emotional. Family lawyers present all the possibilities of a situation in front of you and provide essential counsel for you to make an informed decision. Making informed decisions after knowing your legal rights reduces your chances of facing needless losses.
Increase Your Chances of Winning
Dealing with a legal case on your own is a difficult task, and since everyone does not have the same level of legal knowledge and understanding, you are most likely to lose the case. But if you hire a specialized lawyer for your family law case, there is less to worry about the case because of their extensive experience in the field. With a good and reputable lawyer, there are fewer chances that you lose the case.
Important Terminologies in Family Law Everyone Should Know
When people indulge themselves in family law cases, they must have a slight understanding of the basic legal terminologies, to deal with what will happen next. So, we have gathered here some common yet significant legal terms that everyone should know about family law:
- Absolute Divorce: when the marriage has officially terminated by the court and the husband and wife are no longer liable for anything regarding each other.
- Alimony: it is the financial support or the aid one partner decides to give to the other partner after they have been legally separated or divorced.
- Marital property: the property or the land that the couple owned during their marriage. Which has to be divided after the marriage has been terminated.
- Prenuptial contract: an agreement that is signed between the couple, giving either spouse the right to own each other’s property, in case of the divorce or death of one spouse.
- Affidavit: it is a statement that has to be written, reviewed, and signed by both parties under oath.
- Appeal: after the final decision of the judge in the trial, the party that has lost can file for an appeal to review the case again.
- Contempt: failure of one party to comply with the court orders during and after the case. The party committing contempt has to face legal punishment such as jail or a monetary fine.
- Custodial and non-custodial parent: custodial parent is the one who gets the custody of the child whether legal, physical or both. And the non-custodial parent is the one who is denied custody.
Some Truths About Family Law You Didn’t Know About
- As couples grow old, their probability of filing for divorce increases, hence the overall divorce rate in married couples is higher in older age rather than in the middle life or at a young age. The reason is that in the US, couples cohabitate but do not get married until late in their 30s or 40s. Getting married late is one of the reasons for the rising divorce probability in couples.
- If a couple decides on terminating their marriage by legal separation, they have to wait at least 12 months to file for divorce. This law is to allow the couple to resolve the matters between them before making a permanent life-changing decision.
- Although we all imagine the mother to have a better chance at winning the custody of the child, because of the traditional family structure, that is not always the case in court proceedings. In the court, the decisions made about custody are based on the best interests of the child. This is the reason there are no exceptions made for the mother, and both parents are treated equally.
- The decision of the judge about the child custody case is irrespective of the child’s age. Even when the children are old enough to specify their preferences in front of the court, the decision of the judge cannot be changed merely on that.
- In the visitation cases, the non-custodial parent has to give the child support to the custodial parent whether or not he/she accept or deny the visitation rights. Paying child support is independent of the visitation rules and rights of the parent. If a parent fails to pay the child support, the court can take serious actions against that parent regardless of their visitation rights.
- Only a small percentage of all the family law cases reach the final stage of the legal proceedings, which is the trial. As the family law cases are not as hostile and aggressive as criminal or financial cases, the mediation centers play an important role in them. Most of the cases are resolved through mediation even before they reach the jury decisions. The court also delays the family law cases a lot, probably for the same reason.
- Both parties in the family law cases have to provide every detail of their property, taxes, and all kinds of documentation in front of the court. There is no trial until a full discourse has been made by both parties in the family law cases.