Family law encompasses a wide range of services, all having to do with the family. While most people think that family lawyers only deal with divorces, the truth is that they actually handle a spectrum of cases, often pertaining to the formation of or the dissolution of a family. Here are some of the types of cases that family lawyers handle. Be aware that not all family law attorneys will handle all types of cases; many choose to specialize in just one or two, while others become a jack of all trades, at least where family law is concerned.
If you have gone through a divorce, you might be well-versed in what divorce attorneys do. They can guide you through your separation and/or divorce. They work with you to get you the best settlement possible when it comes to your divorce. They can help you negotiate on matters like who gets the house, who pays alimony (if applicable), how to divide assets, and how to split the liabilities of the marriage.
Most of the time, your divorce lawyer will help you get the results you need without having to go to trial. In a small minority of cases, however, a trial is necessary; when this happens, your lawyer will represent you during that process.
Many divorcing couples can’t afford attorneys or simply don’t want to pay high fees for a private attorney. In these situations, a legal advocacy group can help. This type of group handles the same things that an attorney would and helps their client achieve a fair and equitable settlement from his or her divorce.
Child Custody and Paternity Lawyers
If there’s a question of paternity for a child, a family lawyer can help either the mother or the father prove or disprove paternity. If a man was paying child support for a child that turns out not to be his or if he wasn’t paying child support for a child who is, in fact, biologically his, a paternity attorney can help.
An attorney can also help both mothers and fathers who need to develop a parenting plan for their children when the marriage or relationship breaks up. They can help their client get joint physical and legal custody; conversely, an attorney can also help a parent gain sole custody if that’s what is in the best interest of the child.
Finally, a child custody attorney can also help figure out disputes related to child support. Which parent should pay, what the amount should be, and what expenses each parent is responsible for covering are all matters that a family attorney (or a legal resource group) can help their clients negotiate.
Marriage and Civil Union Lawyers
People who are getting married or going into a civil union or domestic partnership might need an attorney to help them develop a prenuptial agreement or to receive counsel on assets, a business, or other legal matters. Some couples who are already married decide to put together a postnuptial agreement; a family law attorney can help with this, too.
Family Law Lawyers Dealing With Abuse
Domestic abuse and child abuse are very serious issues that a family law attorney might handle. They can work for the person who is abused (or the non-abusive parent of the abused child) or for the person accused of abuse. An attorney can help a victim file a restraining order or file a lawsuit. They might help a battered spouse seek financial compensation for medical care or emotional trauma.
If the lawyer is hired by the person who allegedly abused their spouse or child, they might be able to help them prove that the incident didn’t happen or that it wasn’t them who committed the crime. They might also help a formerly abusive parent gain visitation rights (often supervised) with their child.
If you want to adopt a child or place a child for adoption, you might need an adoption lawyer. They can help you find an appropriate adoption agency and file any legal paperwork that might be required to either relinquish or adopt a child. They can also help with step-parent adoptions or with adoptions by same-sex couples. If there are legal complications (such as the birth parents or the adoptive parents changing their minds), an attorney can represent their client in court.
If you are trying to get guardianship of someone who is not your own minor child, you will likely need a family attorney. Guardianship can include children as well as adults with dementia or developmental problems. For example, if you have a child who will require a guardian even once they are an adult, you will need a family lawyer to facilitate that paperwork. Also, if you have a child in your family (such as a niece, nephew, or grandchild) whose parents are unable to care for them properly, a family attorney might be able to help you get custody and avoid having the child go into foster care.
If one of your own children has been placed in foster care, a family attorney can help you with the steps needed to get your child back. They can refer you to a social worker, a counselor, or other professionals who will be able to reunite you with your child.
When it comes to choosing a family attorney, it’s important to look for someone whom you feel comfortable with and who has taken on cases similar to your case. You might have used a family lawyer for another case in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that individual is the right person to represent you in your new case. For example, a divorce attorney who mainly handles divorces might not be the right lawyer to contact if you later want to adopt a child.
Keep in mind that you don’t always need to pay the high fees of a private lawyer. Legal groups like National Family Solutions can represent you for less money, depending on the specific issue. Think about what services you need and give us a call to find out if we can help you.