Practice Area Overview
Family law is the broad practice area dedicated to marriage, divorce, child custody, adoption, domestic violence, reproductive rights and many other matters regarding familial relationships. The most common family law issue involves divorce, which includes all the related concerns that arise from it, such as the division of marital property, child custody, support and alimony.
While many family law attorneys eventually develop a specialty, such as adoption law or domestic partnership law, many practicing attorneys usually hold experience in more than one area. Additionally, family law attorneys can draft and negotiate contracts, pleadings and other legal documents, all while possessing the interpersonal skills to adapt to and manage each case’s unique, emotional history.
The following subspecialities are a sampling of the types of legal issues that family law lawyers will address:
- Child Custody
- Marital Settlement Agreements
- Family Businesses
- Prenuptial Agreements
- Domestic Relations
- Child Support
- Family Based
- Family Law Mediation
- Partnership Disputes
- Child Abuse
- Family Law Appeals
- Juvenile Matters
- Collaborative Family Law
Family lawyers interact with many aspects of marriage and the marriage relationship. The legal definition of marriage varies from state to state, but generally it is a contract between two people that is recognized by the state and gives both parties certain legal rights and responsibilities. Some of the key rights and responsibilities that come with marriage include property rights, inheritance rights and the responsibility to support one another financially.
Prenuptial arrangements, or the arrangements that are made before a marriage regarding the topic of a future separation, are handled by family attorneys. These agreements are legally binding contracts.
Another major area of family law is divorce. Divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage, and it can be a complicated and emotionally difficult process for all parties involved. For a divorce to occur, one of the parties must file a petition with the court, and the court will then decide on issues such as property division, alimony, and child custody.
Child Custody and Support
Child custody and support is another important aspect of family law. When parents divorce, the court will often make a determination as to which parent will have primary physical custody of the children, as well as how much financial child support will be required from the parent without custody. Child custody and support issues can also arise in situations where the parents were never married.
Adoption is another important area of family law. Adoption is the legal process of becoming a parent to a child who is not biologically related to you. The laws surrounding adoption vary from state to state, but generally, adopting parents must meet certain qualifications and go through a rigorous process before the adoption is finalized.
Family law also encompasses issues related to domestic violence. Domestic violence refers to any type of abuse that occurs within a domestic relationship, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Individuals who are victims of domestic violence can seek legal protection through restraining orders and other legal remedies.
Hiring a Lawyer: Best Lawyers in America for Family Law
The Best Lawyers’ family lawyer directory has an extensive list of experienced family law attorneys who work with marriage, divorce, adoption, and all other specialties within family court.
When searching for a family attorney, it is important to consider the following factors:
- Experience and Specialization: While some of the best family lawyers will have experience representing clients in a variety of legal issues, not all attorneys have the same level of expertise or experience in the field of family law. It is important to find an attorney who specializes in this area of law and has a proven track record of success in handling similar cases.
- Communication: A good attorney should be able to clearly explain the legal process and your options to you and be responsive to your questions and concerns.
- Availability: Family law matters can be time-sensitive, and it is important to find an attorney who is available and responsive to your needs.
- Professionalism and Ethics: Look for an attorney who is a member of a professional organization, such as the state bar association, and who adheres to a strict code of ethics.
- Cost: It is also important to consider the cost of hiring an attorney. Make sure to ask about the attorney’s fee structure and any additional expenses you may incur. There will generally not be a lawyer cost for initial consultations, but not all law firms have the same structure.