What Exactly Is Family Law?

Family law is comprised of various issues that can affect an individual or family. Adoption, child support, child custody, divorce, separation, marriage, alimony, and abuse are some of the topics covered in family law. The laws in each of these areas varies from one state to another. Some aspects of family law, such as some child custody laws, are governed by federal law.

Unmarried Couples

When unmarried couples are involved in a long-term relationship, they might qualify for a common law marriage in some jurisdictions, such as Texas. A common law marriage affords the couple all the same rights as a married couple. Unmarried couples might also have issues regarding paternity and similar situations. These are also handled through family court. A family court judge can order tests for paternity and handle child support cases when paternity is established.

Marriage and Divorce

Family law encompasses a variety of aspects relating to marriage and divorce. A prenuptial agreement before the marriage falls under the family law umbrella. Issues with marriages, legal separations, and divorces are also family law issues. When a couple goes through a legal separation or divorce, the court will usually divide the property of the couple. How the property is divided depends on the state in which the couple resides. Some states are community property states, while others are equitable distribution states. The court will also decide on alimony or spousal support payments. These issues can be decided during a family law trial or by going through a mediation process.

Child Custody

Child custody matters, including visitation, child support, and adoption, are all handled in family court. Child custody, support, and visitation are usually all handled at the same time. On top of the initial orders pertaining to these cases, the family court will also handle modifications to these orders when a modification is warranted according to state law.

Adoptions are also handled by the family court. The court usually works closely with the state-appointed agency to ensure that the best interests of the adoptive child are met. This means completing home studies, background checks, and other requirements as set forth by state law.

Abuse and Domestic Violence

Abuse and domestic violence cases are usually handled in family court. While the criminal aspect of these cases will still be handled in criminal court, the family court can handle some aspects of the cases. In the case of child abuse, the family law aspect would be that of determining if a family should be reunified or if parental rights should be terminated. For domestic abuse cases, family law would handle the protection orders against the abusive spouse.

All aspects of family law are complex. Learning the state laws and federal laws pertaining to a case can be difficult. Working with an experienced family law attorney might help to make the process easier. These attorneys can help present your side of the case, petition the court, negotiate in mediation cases, and work through any issues that might come up.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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