What is family law?

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The legal definition of family law is the collection of laws and legislation that relate to issues that have a serious and significant impact on family relationships. While family law is often seen as synonymous with handling divorce proceedings, the reality is that it encompasses a wide range of subjects that affect all areas of personal and family life.

Why is family law important?

Family law lays out and protects the rights and responsibilities of family members across a wide spectrum of situations. It is designed to be a framework that provides a basis for achieving fair and equitable results for all family members involved, whether they are adults or children. Family law can be an emotionally charged area of law, dealing as it often does with failing relationships and the resulting conflict. For this reason, family law solicitors require not only legal knowledge but also a good understanding of people and how to support them with appropriate sensitivity.

Types of family law

As already mentioned, family law is a diverse and wide-ranging area of practice, although it can be most briefly categorised into three areas: matrimonial, financial, and child-related. At Robinson’s Solicitors, our specialist solicitors work across all sectors to provide the full spectrum of family law from prenuptials to Child Arrangement Orders.

Divorce

For many people, family law touches their lives only when they file for divorce. Family law relating to divorce covers all aspects of ending a marriage, including separation of assets, financial support, and Child Arrangement Orders

Prenuptials and Cohabitation Agreements

Prenuptials are no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. While seen as unromantic, a prenuptial should be considered a sensible and pragmatic course of action that allows both parties to calmly agree future expectations should the relationship break down. UK law does not recognise the status of unmarried couples and so there is no protection should the relationship fail. For those considering setting up home together, but not intending to marry in the near future, a Cohabitation Agreement acts in a similar way to a prenuptial, ensuring that both parties are in agreement about what should happen to shared assets should they part ways.

Finances for the unmarried

As covered above, UK law doesn’t recognise what is often called ‘common law’ partners. When unmarried couples split, they have often acquired assets together. Without the legal framework afforded to married couples, good legal advice and representation are vital to achieving a fair and equitable resolution, especially if children are involved.

Children

Child Arrangement Orders and access can be the most contentious part of any relationship breakdown, and is arguably the most important. Should parents be unable to reach an agreement between themselves, then clear guidance and experience of handling such issues are invaluable. In cases where families have become involved with the local authority, it is essential for family members to understand their rights and responsibilities with regard to the affected children.

6 Positive Impacts of Divorce on Children

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6 Positive Impacts of Divorce on Children Your divorce may impact your children in a variety of ways. That impact depends on your children's emotional make-up and their previous experiences. Equally important is how the people around your children -- especially you and the other parent -- react to the divorce and provide comfort and support to your children through this turbulent time. Thankfully, the effects of divorce on children are not always bad. In many instances, divorce can have a positive impact on children. It frees them from the chronic stress that comes from living with parents in a volatile, disrespectful, or loveless relationship. I believe that good co-parenting relationships between parents, after separation, can counterbalance the negative impacts of divorce. I have seen this time and again in my 20 years working with divorcing families. I have seen this in my own children's lives.

Single mother helping her daughter with her homeworkWise parents use their divorce as an opportunity to step up their parenting skills and focus on their children's long-term emotional well-being and relationship skills. That is great news for your kids.
    POSITIVE IMPACTS OF DIVORCE: (1) The historically "less involved parent" often steps up his or her involvement with the children.  Whenever possible, having both parents genuinely involved in a child's life is the ideal situation. Two parents in a child's life creates more opportunity for that child to develop his or her attachment skills. These skills form the basis from which all human beings learn to be social and to develop the ability to have meaningful and loving relationships with other people. Whether or not both parents are going to win an award for mother/father of the year is not the point. What matters is that both parents are positively involved in their child's life and that the child feels unconditionally loved by both parents. (2) Children can learn excellent conflict resolution skills from their divorced parents. Even if the parents "failed" at marriage, they can do a great job co-parenting their kids. Good co-parenting always requires high level conflict resolution skills (as does parenting in an intact marriage). Your kids are watching everything that you do. If you can get along with your ex, and the children can see and feel that they are being parented by a team, they are learning valuable human relationship and problem solving skills. This will serve them well as they navigate all the trials and tribulations that will come their way over time. (3) Children tend to have more opportunity for one-on-one time with their parents post-divorce.  Most children love this special time with their parents -- as long as that parent actually pays attention to them. If you cannot be reasonably present for your children, consider allowing the other parent more custody time. Kids don't count days. They just want to know you are interested in them and that you really care. (4) Parents have the opportunity for refreshing breaks from the hard work of parenting. When your children are with the other parent, take advantage of that time. This is your break. The silver lining of divorce is that you now have the opportunity to recharge your batteries. (5) There is a greater tendency for both parents to be involved in the day-to-day academic, social, extracurricular, and emotional lives of their children. It's easier to know what is going on in your child's day-to-day life if that child spends more time in your home. This is great for your kids. Involved parents are usually better parents. Kids love it when they feel their parents are both up to speed with the important matters in their life. It feels more secure and that will help your child feel calm, and be able to focus more on being a kid, and less on wondering what is going on with the grown-ups. (6) In good co-parenting situations, children have the opportunity to take in the fact that big changes, though worrisome, are not always bad. Children of divorce learn that life is full of surprises. Children of good divorces learn that changes often result in improvements. CONCLUSION If divorced parents do a good job at co-parenting, their kids will have a solid foundation for a successful and happy life. Children of divorce have seen tough times; but, if the divorce is civilized, they have also seen their most important role models -- their parents -- rise above their troubles. These children can relax in the knowledge that they are unconditionally loved and that, together, both parents have their backs.

Marriage Rights and Benefits

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Whether or not you favor marriage as a social institution, there's no denying that it confers many rights, protections, and benefits--both legal and practical. Some of these vary from state to state, but the list typically includes: Related Products Living Together Living Together The information and forms unmarried couples n... Nolo's Essential Guide to Child Custody & Support Nolo's Essential Guide to Child Custody & Support Get the answers you need to create the right... Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce Your legal companion through all stages of se... View More Tax Benefits Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities. Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members. Estate Planning Benefits Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate. Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse. Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts. Obtaining priority if your spouse needs a conservator--that is, someone to make financial or medical decisions on your spouse's behalf. Government Benefits Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses. Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans. Receiving public assistance benefits. Employment Benefits Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer. Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness. Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse. Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse's close relatives dies. Medical Benefits Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility. Making medical decisions if your spouse becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment. Death Benefits Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures. Making burial or other final arrangements. Family Benefits Filing for stepparent or joint adoption. Applying for joint foster care rights. Receiving a share of marital property if you divorce. Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce. Housing Benefits Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only." Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse. Consumer Benefits Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance. Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities. Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families. Other Legal Benefits and Protections Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy). Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states). Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can't force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications made between you and your spouse during your marriage. Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime. Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse. Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family. Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic Obergefell case and ruled that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, and same-sex couples can legally marry anywhere in the United States. If you are in a same-sex marriage, your union will be legally recognized everywhere in the United States, and you are entitled to all of the same state and federal benefits as opposite-sex married couples. However, these rules do not apply to unmarried couples that have established either a domestic partnership or civil union. If you are in either of these two marriage-alternative unions, none of the benefits of marriage under federal law will apply to you, because the federal government does not recognize these same-sex relationships. For example, you may not file joint federal income tax returns with your partner, even if your state allows you to file your state tax returns jointly. And other federal benefits, such as Social Security death benefits and COBRA continuation insurance coverage, may not apply.

Benefits of Finding a Reliable Family Lawyer

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If you have never hired a family lawyer in the past, you may feel intimated by the prospect. The law that governs many facets of our lives is complex and confusing. Lawyers have a thorough education in the law generally, and family lawyers specialize in areas that may be relevant to you and your loved ones today. While there may be numerous family lawyers serving your area, finding a reliable, skilled lawyer with considerable experience can be truly beneficial in these ways. Finding the Best Family Lawyer – Classi Blogger

Navigating Through a Divorce

If you are on the fence about filing for divorce or are preparing your life for the divorce process, it makes sense to reach out to a reliable family law professional for a consultation. You may have recently been surprised by the presentation of unexpected divorce papers. Regardless of your situation, a divorce has far-reaching effects on your life and on your children’s lives. Even if the divorce is amicable, it makes sense to seek professional representation and to ensure that your rights are protected.

Caring for Dependents

Family law firm services are most often associated with divorce, but they also extend to the care of dependents. You may be trying to fight for custody of a child in or after divorce. Perhaps you need to seek custody of an elderly parent. Dependent services may even extend to the legal adoption of children. When seeking legal custody or when you need to fight for continued custody, hiring an experienced lawyer may be an essential step.

Preparing for the Future

Types of family lawyers Family lawyers often provide services that can help you to prepare for potential and inevitable situations alike. For example, you may hire a family lawyer to prepare a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. You may also need legal services to prepare a will and to ensure that custody of your children is bestowed to the individual who you select. Your family lawyer may also work in your best interest to protect your rights based on these and other legal documents that you prepared in the past. Because the law is complicated and touches so many aspects of your life, it makes sense to locate a trusted, reliable family lawyer who you can turn to now and in the future. Even if you are not dealing with a major legal issue today, you can reach out to your lawyer periodically as needed for questions about your rights and options. Now is the ideal time to interview family lawyers and to connect with a professional who you can count on to be there down the road.

Managing Your Relationship with Your Family Law Lawyer

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Lawyer-Client Relationship Are A Two-Way Street

How To Manage Your Relationship With Your Family Law Lawyer Like all relationships, the one you have with your family law lawyer is bound to experience good days and not-so-good days. This is especially true of lawyer-client relationships as clients are dealing with a life-altering situation and sometimes are driven by emotion instead of logic. For this reason, it’s extremely important to find a lawyer who you trust to advocate for your best interest.

The Initial Consultation And Assessing Your Lawyer

The initial consultation is a very important step in the journey towards your relationship with your lawyer. This meeting is intended not only for a lawyer to hear your matter and provide legal advice but also for both parties to assess the expectations for the relationship and set the tone for future proceedings. If it is your first-time meeting with a lawyer you may feel nervous. To help ease your mind, here is what you can expect from the initial consultation:
  • you will be given the opportunity to explain your situation and the possibility of reconciliation;
  • the lawyer will identify immediate legal issues such as violence, housing, and access to finances;
  • the lawyer will explain the relevant law and inform you of your options for resolution;
  • you will outline your goals and interests in resolving the issues and provide feedback on the resolution methods; and
  • if you wish to retain the lawyer you will be given a retainer agreement and the lawyer will provide instructions for your next steps to resolving your matter.
It’s extremely important to be straightforward and honest during the initial consultation. Lawyers have seen and heard it all so you do not have to be embarrassed by any actions (either your own or your exes). This will ensure the relationship gets off on the right foot and set a good tone going forward.

Your Lawyer is Not Your Therapist

Types of Lawyers | legalzoom.com Your lawyer is there to provide legal advice, assist you in navigating the family law system and promote options for dispute resolution. Your lawyer is not there to listen to you complain about your ex or any injustices you feel as a result of your current situation. Your lawyer has a moral and legal obligation to act within the law to advocate for you on your behalf. Your lawyer cannot be responsible for guaranteeing results as family law is complex and uncertain. What they can do is provide you with all the relevant information, provide a cost-benefit analysis and give you a reasonable idea of the outcome of your matter. It is very important for you to understand this relationship dynamic. If you are unable to act within the boundaries of the lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer does have the right to terminate the retainer agreement and withdrawal from acting on your behalf.

The intervention of Third Parties

How to Sue Your Lawyer | legalzoom.com Often, the breakdown of a marriage can leave clients very vulnerable and impressionable. You may wish to seek guidance from others who have been in a similar situation. This can sometimes get messy if you are receiving conflicting information from your lawyer versus your confidant. It’s a lawyer's obligation to ensure the instructions they receive reflect the wishes of the clients and not a third party. It is in your best interest as a client to only accept legal advice from a qualified lawyer. Finally, a third party’s influence may adversely impact the resolution to your matter and draw out the legal proceedings costing you both time, money, and potential relationships with your children and ex. If you are considering divorce and want to know your rights and obligations under the law, connect with us for an initial consultation today.

How to Create a Good Attorney-Client Relationship

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As an attorney whose practice is exclusively dedicated to family law, I have learned that maintaining a good working relationship with a client is critical to the ultimate success of the case – and an essential component of achieving the client’s goals during the representation. The importance of establishing and maintaining a good working relationship with your client, from commencement through to conclusion, cannot be overstated. How to Create a Good Attorney-Client Relationship | Paul M. Graziano Establishing a good attorney-client relationship starts during the initial consultation. At the outset, the attorney should create an atmosphere of trust, identify the potential legal issues involved in the case, elicit facts and circumstances from the client that is relevant to the legal issues, and most importantly, assess the client’s credibility and make a determination as to whether the attorney and client can work well together to achieve the client’s goals. Trust is earned; it takes time to build trust and create a comfort level for the client, and that process starts at the commencement of the engagement.

Creating a Good Attorney-Client Relationship: Start with the Initial Consultation

The initial consultation provides an opportunity for both the attorney and prospective client to get to know one another and decide whether the relationship will be effective and productive. Attorneys have different styles and “bedside manners” in terms of how they interact with their clients and work with them on legal matters. Not every attorney is a good fit for every client, and not every attorney will share the same opinion or perspective on how best to handle the client’s matter. It is critically important – both during the initial consultation and throughout the case – to set and continue to manage the client’s expectations as to the outcome of contested issues. During the initial consultation, clients often ask the attorney to render a legal opinion regarding specific issues in their matter. An attorney can provide a general framework of potential outcomes, but at the inception of a case, it is difficult (if not impossible) to render a legal opinion with certainty as to the ultimate outcome. Clients will rely on their attorney’s opinions and analysis, so be judicious when discussing possible outcomes. There is no benefit to anyone in the process if you simply tell the client what he/she wants to hear and fail to fully explain possible outcomes – and what it may take in terms of time and money to pursue the client’s goals. The attorney’s obligation is to assess the issues and to provide the client with the most accurate analysis possible, including an honest assessment of all the potential outcomes in their case –favorable and unfavorable. Tread lightly, but honesty really is the best policy.

Technology and Divorce

What does DDLA do? | Darcy Doyle Loss Assessors The technology boom has had a significant effect on how clients choose their attorneys. Prior to a prospective client even stepping foot in your door for a consultation, he/she has likely already conducted legal research online concerning his/her case, consulted with other attorneys and/or family and friends about the case, and learned about your professional background and experience practicing law. This can result in the client already having a specific opinion as to how you should handle the case. You need to manage the client’s expectations regarding how you intend to handle issues in their matter – and ensure that your client understands and agrees with your strategy. Much of what can be found on the Internet by way of attorney websites, legal blogs, and open forum discussions are effective in providing a general overview and framework concerning a legal issue or body of law, but lack specificity in regard to the variables and different facts and circumstances that ultimately dictate the outcome of a client’s particular legal issues. Given that there is easy access to this kind of general information, today’s litigants self-educate more than ever – but the attorney still has the ultimate responsibility to make sure the client fully understands the issues in their case and the relevant statutory authority and case law that will impact the determination of these issues. Consider providing clients with specific references to statutory authority and/or relevant case law concerning their matter so they have an opportunity to read and review some of the authority and information you may be relying upon in assessing their case. I encourage clients to be invested in their case: to educate themselves, and to ask questions whenever they are uncertain about any aspect of their case. You should always keep an open line of communication with your client.

Developing and Maintaining a Good Attorney-Client Relationship

client relationshipsAfter the client has retained you, the focus shifts to further developing and maintaining a good attorney-client relationship. Maintaining the relationship requires diligence on the attorney’s part, and also on the part of the attorney’s staff. Your staff serves as an extension of you, and your client expects the same professionalism, courtesy, and respect from your office as they do from you. When your staff falls short of meeting these expectations, this reflects poorly on you. Having a good support team is critical to effectively representing and keeping clients happy. I am often interviewed by clients seeking to hire new counsel to represent them. The principal complaints I hear from clients relate to their frustration in not being able to communicate directly with their attorney, the lack of timely response(s) by the attorney, and difficulty in gaining access to the attorney. Clients expect that their attorney and his/her staff will respond promptly to inquiries or questions, including providing correspondence and/or pleadings received, and keeping them apprised of the status of their case. With the proliferation of email and text messaging, clients expect a rapid response to their inquiries. Set ground rules with your clients regarding how you will respond to their queries; establish an easy and expedient method of communication between counsel and staff, and specify the manner in which your office will provide correspondence, pleadings, and other written materials received during the pendency of the case. Setting expectations as to how communication will be handled will greatly reduce the possibility of misunderstandings – and help prevent clients from looking for a new attorney. You need to remember that clients often come to a family lawyer’s office at the worst of times. They are nervous, anxious, looking for guidance, and paying for effective legal counsel. To create an effective and productive attorney-client relationship, you need to foster an atmosphere of mutual trust and honesty, establish ground rules for communication, and manage the client’s expectations regarding the potential outcome of their case. Ultimately, your responsibility is to advocate on behalf of your clients, provide guidance and recommendations to them, and formulate a plan to achieve all realistic goals. Successful representation requires establishing and maintaining a good working relationship with your clients.

Tips for a “Civil” Family Law Matter

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Family Law Blog | Family Law Section Archives - WisLawNOW 1. Set Reasonable Expectations by Educating the Client Clients need to know the likely outcomes of the custody and financial issues based on statute and case law. It is much easier for a client if they know what is likely to happen at the beginning of a case rather than being surprised in court when the judge makes a ruling. It is also more efficient to negotiate final settlements if the client knows the parameters of the possible outcomes at trial. Client education should begin at the first meeting and should not end until the conclusion the case. Our job as their attorney sometimes requires follow-up on important issues that the client likely has no idea how to predict (e.g., opening a file with the Office of Child Support Enforcement so support payments can start or completing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order and what to expect when awards from a former spouse’s pension finally pay out). Last, an educated client is easier to work with and is more likely to return for assistance in the future. If clients recognize your advice as being valuable, worthwhile, and easy to follow, they are more likely to follow your lead and heed your advice. If you are in the practice of identifying yourself as a trusted advisor, then during representation of your clients is an important place to start. 2. Avoid Being Dramatic and “Over the Top” It can be tempting to turn on the dramatics when drafting a pleading, especially with a set of facts that get you fired up. I rarely meet a client who isn’t on board with being aggressive in pleadings. But coaching clients to maintain a civilized tone in a family law matter can reduce conflict between the parties and enhance your client’s image before the court. Focus on the facts and the law. And thoroughly explain the situation to the court without too much dramatic flair, if any at all. I like to remind clients that their pleadings are a matter of public record and that, potentially, anyone can read them in the future. Ask them if they really want their private business made public. Impress upon them that litigation is a process with a time and place for everything, including detailed storytelling (which is best done in the courtroom in front of the trier of fact, not in the pleadings). In submitting statements to court, simply tell the court what the opposing party did without any unnecessary embellishments—let the facts speak for themselves. For example, it does no good to accuse someone of having “violent tendencies” when the person has never engaged in violent behavior. Courts are likely to find extreme statements (e.g., calling someone a “liar,” saying “he doesn’t really care about our children” or “she is a psychopath”) unpersuasive, particularly when there is no clear proof. But what do you do when these kinds of statements are made about your client? 3. Lead by Example and Take the High Road One of the more difficult aspects of family law arises when the opposing party or their attorney engages in high-conflict behavior (e.g., making insulting statements in court or in pleadings, involving the children, spewing misinformation to third parties, repeating unfounded accusations, providing details of indiscreet behavior to others, calling a person’s workplace, and/or not complying with court orders). Your client’s first reaction might be to demand that you make the opposing party or the other attorney stop, or perhaps to retaliate by engaging in the same sort of behavior. Instead, to reduce conflict, it is always better to advise a client to “take the high road.” Explain to them the options for court intervention (e.g., contempt actions, restraining orders, etc.) and aim to resolve the matter in a way that prevents the high-conflict behavior from escalating. 4. Explain and Encourage Alternatives Explaining alternatives to trial can provide a huge sense of relief to your client, as it allows them to make informed choices. Often once the legal process starts, communication between the parties deteriorates, and the client has a hard time focusing on where they want to end up. Think back to Tip #1: Set reasonable expectations by educating the client. Discuss the possibility of collaborative law or early mediation to resolve their family law disputes. The parties can also jointly hire or consult with neutral financial and/or parenting experts. But, keep in mind that if there has been domestic violence or other issues that would make a cooperative approach unworkable, then some options may not be advisable. 5. Limit Family Input The Must-Know Family Law Summary - iPleaders A family law attorney should always try to limit the involvement of family members or new romantic interests unless absolutely necessary. It is important for clients to understand that when we ask a family member to write an affidavit or testify in court for our client, we are likely jeopardizing that person’s future relationship with the other spouse or partner, and as a result their relationship with the children, particularly when the children are with the other spouse or partner.

What Unwed Fathers Should Know About Gaining Custody

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="409"] Establishing paternity is the first step in getting custody[/caption] Many fathers who are not or were never married to their child’s mother may think the likelihood of them obtaining custody is slim to none. The truth is unwed fathers can gain custody of their children through filing a parentage action. Each state has its own laws and statutes regarding this, but in many states, it is called a Complaint to Establish Paternity, a Petition to Establish a Father-Child Relationship, a Petition for Paternity, or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, (all of these are just different names for a paternity lawsuit filed to prove that someone is the legal and biological father of a child). Petitioning the court for a paternity suit is the first step unwed fathers need to take to obtain custody or visitation with their children. The outcome of the paternity suit, however, is not based on a procedure but more on many factors that a judge considers throughout the case. Judges look at a wide array of factors, most notably the relationship the father has with the child and any parenting concerns the father has regarding how the child’s mother is caring for or raising him or her. These factors play a major role in how the judge decides the case and whether the father gets the outcome he desires.

Filing a Paternity Suit

When an unwed father files a paternity suit, he is petitioning the court to provide him with access to his child, which is based on the idea that contact with both parents is within the child’s best interests. In this petition, the father can request custody, visitation, or both, but it is important to note that custody and visitation are not the same things. Once the petition has been filed with the court, the father needs to ensure that the child’s mother is served with a notice that a petition has been filed.

Making a Custody Case

Fathers will want to hire an attorney to help build their custody case. If fathers have any concerns or evidence that the mother is improperly parenting the child, it is important they inform their attorney of these facts, including reports of neglect, any cases with child protective service agencies, or evidence of unfit behavior. If the mother does not have any negative parenting attributes, the father may want to consider petitioning the court for visitation/parenting time as a backup plan. If a father has been denied parenting time with his child, depending on how long the absence has been, a father might look at setting a long-term goal of obtaining custody. This long-term goal might involve first establishing paternity while obtaining as much overnight parenting time as possible, and then preparing to file a follow-up motion or petition with the court (a year or two later) to modify that parenting plan and make the father the primary residential parent. This requires strategic planning and a father must be at his best at all times – even a small slip-up can derail this plan.

The Custody Decision

Depending on the circumstances of the case and the evidence presented, the judge decides on the father’s petition. The father’s request for custody or visitation will either be granted, denied, or some compromise will be made between both parties. It is important to know there is no such thing as a “final decree” when it comes to child custody issues – there is always an opportunity to have child custody agreements modified or changed depending on the circumstances of the case. When the judge makes a decision on custody-related matters, a father should expect that he and the mother will both be testifying under oath and that the judge will be relying on numerous factors that are presented in the form of evidence to the court. This might be report cards, letters from counselors, or even the advice of a court-appointed child representative (a lawyer that represents minor children). The judge will base their decision on what is in the best interests of the children, not necessarily based on what a child or either parent wants. Getting started on the path to getting parenting time or custody of your child means first establishing paternity – and an experienced child custody lawyer is likely the first and most important step to take for your family.

FAQs about Family Law

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1,440 Family Law Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock This page is provided as a public service by the ABA Section of Family Law. Nothing in this site should be construed as legal information, legal advice or legal representation. Divorce laws vary from state to state. Our answers reflect the laws applied in most states. We make no warranties to the accuracy of information contained herein. We assume no responsibility for any information, advice or services provided by any site that is linked from this site. You may also wish to visit our Family Law in the 50 States tables for more specific information. I am getting divorced. Do I need an attorney? It ordinarily is a good idea to consult with a lawyer about major life events or changes, such as a divorce. S/he will protect your rights, as well as the rights of your children. S/he keeps current with the laws in your state concerning marriage, divorce, marital property, child custody and visitation, and family support. How can I find an attorney? One of the best ways to find an attorney is via referral from other family members, friends, colleagues or professionals (i.e., accountant, therapist, clergy). For a list of state and local bar association referral programs, see www.findlegalhelp.org for more information and resources. What are the legal grounds for obtaining a divorce? The grounds for divorce depend on the state, and may be based on no-fault or fault. A no-fault divorce is available in some form in all 50 states; many states also have fault-based grounds as an additional option. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither the husband nor the wife officially blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Common bases for no-fault divorce are "irreconcilable differences," "irretrievable breakdown" or "incompatibility." Another common basis for no-fault divorce is that the parties have lived separately for a certain period of time (varies from state to state) with the intent that the separation be permanent. The list of grounds for a fault-based divorce may include: adultery, physical cruelty, mental cruelty, attempted murder, desertion, habitual drunkenness, use of addictive drugs, insanity, impotency, and infection of one’s spouse with venereal disease. Who determines how assets are divided in a divorce? Generally, spouses are free to divide their property as they see fit in what is called a "marital settlement agreement," which is a contract between the husband and the wife that divides property and debts and resolves other issues of the divorce. Although many divorces begin with a high level of acrimony, a substantial majority are settled without the need for a judge to decide property or other issues. However, if the division of property cannot be settled, then the court must make the determination. Laws vary from state to state. As a starting point, many states allow both parties to keep their "nonmarital" or "separate" property. In dividing marital or community property, the laws vary from state to state. Some states are community property states. Some states, such as California, believe that marital property should be divided equally unless a premarital agreement specifies otherwise. Most states, however, apply the concept of "equitable distribution," which means the court divides the marital property as it thinks fair. That division may be 50-50 or something else. Some of the factors considered include: the amount of nomarital property each spouse has; each spouse’s earning power; services as a homemaker; waste and dissipation; fault; duration of the marriage; and age and health of the parties. How do courts determine who gets custody of children in a divorce? How do Courts Determine Who Gets Custody of Children in a Divorce? | Parent HeraldIf the parents cannot agree on custody of their child, the courts decide custody based on "the best interests of the child." Determining the child’s best interests involves many factors, no one of which is the most important factor. Source: Atkinson, Jeff, The American Bar Association Guide to Family Law, 1996. What is joint custody? Joint custody has two parts: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. A joint custody order can have one or both parts. Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the major decisions affecting the child, which can include school, health care and religious training. Other considerations under these types of custody agreements can include: extracurricular activities, summer camp, age for dating or getting a job, and methods of discipline. Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible, and can range from a moderate period of time for one parent, such as every other weekend, to a child dividing the time equally between the two parents’ homes. In situations where the time spent with both parents will be divided equally, it helps if the parents live close to one another. How is child support determined in a divorce or child support case? All 50 states have adopted child support guidelines. Some states use tables that indicate a support amount for different ranges of income, similar to tax tables. Although some states base support on the payor's income, many states use an income shares model, which is based on the income of both parents. Usually, the parent without the child the majority of the time will pay support, but if both parents share time with the child equally, the parent with the greater income usually pays support. The support may be reduced based upon the amount of time the payor spends with the child. Some states also cap support at a certain income level. If a parent is intentionally not working or is working at less than he or she is capable of earning, the court can "impute income," which means setting support based upon what the parent is capable of earning rather than actual earnings. States vary on what expenses are included in child support. For example, some states include medical expenses and day care, while other states add those costs on top of the child support. What happens if a parent does not pay court-ordered child support? In 1994, 5.4 million women with children were due child support (far below the number eligible for such orders). However, of the 5.4 million, only slightly more than half received the full amount, while a quarter received partial payment and a quarter received nothing at all. Various enforcement mechanisms exist against these so-called "dead-beat parents," including automatic withholding of the obligor’s income. The court has the power to hold a party in contempt for violating a court order. The contemnor must be allowed an opportunity to "purge" the contempt, meaning to comply with the order. If the contemnor does not purge the contempt and has the ability to pay, the court has the power of incarceration, although usually for a limited amount of time, such as six months per contempt citation. In addition, many states have criminal penalties for failing to pay child support. Recently, Congress has enacted many new enforcement mechanisms, creating greater collaboration between federal and state governments. These include suspension of driver’s licenses and professional licenses, seizure of tax refunds, seizure of bank accounts and investment accounts, and even publishing the name and picture of the "dead-beat parent" on posters and in newspapers. The law also improves interstate enforcement by bolstering federal services to locate parents across state lines and by requiring all states to have common paternity procedures in interstate cases. Do grandparents have visitation rights to their children? Custody and Grandparents' Rights: Here's What You Need to Know | legalzoom.comTraditionally, the common law denied grandparents visitation with a child over a parent's objections. But since 1965, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation enabling grandparents to petition the courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. The laws do not make granting of visitation rights automatic—they merely give grandparents the right to ask for a visitation order. Many states permit only grandparents to petition for visitation, but some have extended the right to other relatives, such as great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, stepparents, and even non-relatives with whom the child has a close relationship. In these and other areas, state law governs. Most commonly, a grandparent (or other permitted third party) may petition for visitation after the death of a parent or upon divorce of the parents. Some statutes allow petitions when a parent is incarcerated when a child is born out of wedlock, and when the child has previously lived with the grandparent.

7 Important Traits of the Best Family Law Lawyers

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It's hard to choose the right family law lawyer for your case. The process can be challenging and stressful, especially when you are not sure what you're looking for. Finding the Right Family Law Lawyer For Your Divorce - CDT Throughout the pages of our website, we have worked hard to bring you useful information that will help you learn the law and also help you choose the best family lawyer for your particular case. In this article, we are going to review some of the traits that we believe are important and should be part of the right family law attorney. Think of this as the 7 golden traits.

1. The lawyer's integrity

Reasons You Need a Family Lawyer After You're Divorced | Texas Integrity is a big deal and, perhaps to your surprise, a necessary part of any family lawyer you hire. What do we mean by integrity? Simple. A family law lawyer should be honest with you about the strengths and weaknesses of your divorce case. I swear, some family lawyers should have pom poms in their office. All they do is cheer-lead, just to get you to retain them. That is foolish on their part and dangerous on yours. Imagine going to a doctor. You know you are ill but you don't know what is wrong with you. Imagine then the doctor not telling you what is medically wrong with you but instead telling you that you are fine…would you feel better in that moment? Sure. Is that in your best interest? No, not unless you don't mind becoming more ill. It's not that different with choosing the right lawyer. How are you going to know what the right direction and strategy is on your family law case if your lawyer only gives you part of the information you need? How are you going to set reasonable expectations? How are you going to avoid being surprised in court when results occur that you never saw coming? These are not good things and when you consult with a family lawyer who assures your everything is fine, you have nothing to worry about and makes you promises that (just using some common sense) don't sound right, run the other way.

2. The family law lawyer's diligence

You can tell the diligence of your lawyer from the moment you call him or her. Did the lawyer take your call or did you talk with a secretary? Did the lawyer take the time to speak with you about the issues by phone or just got right to how much he or she would charge? Did the in person consultation happen? Did the lawyer go over the facts, the law and the issues? When you are choosing the right family attorney for your case, keep these things in mind. They are a "preview" of the type of diligence you can expect when you hire him or her. Don't get diligence from the moment you call? Move on.

3. The lawyer's communication skills

Lawyers, as a profession, have a poor reputation for their communication skills. You know why that is? Because they deserve it. Your family law attorney should be accessible to you. When you call, he or she should take the call. You should not be talking with the lawyer's secretary or paralegal more than the lawyer. Legal advice should come from the lawyer. Your lawyer should email you. Your lawyer should be in regular contact about the status of your case.

4. The lawyer's objectivity

Objectivity is more than giving you the strengths and weaknesses of your case. It is also making sure the analysis of your case includes the reasonable options the family court has. The best lawyers will not look at your divorce case and its issues in a vacuum. Instead, they will understand the court has "discretion" on certain issues and there is rarely a black or white, clear-cut issue in family law. That discretion means options and it is important your lawyer give you those options. Does that mean they can predict results? Of course not. Nobody can and nobody should. But it does mean an objective look at the facts, evidence and issues can prepare you for different scenarios and help you and your lawyer plan accordingly.

5. The family law lawyer's patience

You know that lawyer that loses his or her patience, yells at you, yells at the other lawyer, yells in court and then calls him or herself "aggressive"? Don't hire that type. It's one thing to be blunt and to the point. It's another to let your emotions get the better of you.
You are going through a difficult time. You may be emotional. You need your lawyer to be calm and patient. That doesn't mean you can just let your emotions take control of you and let the lawyer figure out the rest. The best family law attorneys help you manage those emotions, if you will let them.

6. The family law lawyer document preparation skills

By the time you walk into court, your lawyer or law firm should have prepared all of your paperwork. Did you know a lot of times, the family law judge has made his or her decision on the case before you walk in? Did you know that decision is often made based on the paperwork submitted? Don't underestimate the importance of the document preparation in your divorce case…and if you hire a lawyer who has his or her secretary or paralegal do all of the work and he doesn't even read it carefully and make sure it is accurate, complete and properly advocates your case, you should consider changing lawyers.

7. The family law lawyer skill and experience inside the courtroom

Birmingham Family Law Attorneys » Free Consultations Here are three ways to know if you have a talented courtroom, divorce lawyer. a. Look at what his or her actual clients say about the lawyer; b. Look at the types of case results the lawyer achieves; c. Go see the lawyer in court. Sound easy? It is. Do you need an initial consultation with an experienced and skilled family law lawyer? If so, our lawyers are ready to help you. Contact our law firm today for a consultation. We will get your case on the right track.