For most people, the first thing that comes to mind whenever they come across the phrase “family law” is divorce. Divorce, while a huge part of family law, is just one area of the said legal field.
Family law encompasses a wide range of matters covering anything and everything that pertains to family matters and domestic relations.
Along with divorce, child support, property division, and child custody are the most common areas of family law. Here’s an overview of what each area involves.
Divorce is a legal decree that dissolves a marriage. Once a divorce becomes final, both parties will no longer be legally bound to each other. They can move on with their lives, free to remarry or forge a domestic partnership with another person.
Both parties can go for a “no-fault” divorce or a “fault-based” one.
Under no-fault divorce statutes, a spouse can file for divorce without holding the other spouse responsible for the marriage’s end. Loss of affection, irreconcilable differences, and irremediable breakdown are among the grounds for a no-fault divorce.
Fault-based divorce, meanwhile, can be obtained based on grounds that include domestic violence, adultery, drug and alcohol abuse, and abandonment.
Spouses file a fault-based divorce for a number of reasons. Some use a fault-based divorce to get the required waiting period for finalizing the divorce waived. Others do it to sway the court when it decides on subsequent child custody, child support, and alimony cases.
Divorce proceedings, as well as paternity and legitimation cases, typically tackle child custody matters.
When resolving child custody cases, courts in most jurisdictions rule based on the best interests of the child. The factors that determine what’s best for the child may vary from state to state, or from judge to judge. Generally, those factors include, but are not limited to:
The relationship of the child with both parents, siblings, and others who may have a significant effect on the child
The child’s preferences, as well as that of the parents
The overall physical and mental health of the child, parents, and other parties involved
Considering how stressful a child custody case can get, it is often better for all parties to resolve custody issues out-of-court. Such a settlement is possible if both parents come to an agreement that is in the best interest of the child.
Divorce, paternity, and legitimation cases often give rise to child support issues. Child support revolves around the policy that both parents have an obligation to support their children.
In most cases, the mother is the custodial parent, while the non-custodial father is the one who pays child support. It’s not unheard of, however, for the roles to be reversed.
The guidelines that govern how much child support the non-custodial parent must pay may vary from state to state. Generally, the parent paying child support must continue to do so until:
The child is no longer a minor, except in cases when the child has special needs
Termination of parental rights through adoption or other legal processes
The child is emancipated or declared an adult by the court after becoming self-supporting
The child goes on active military service
Each party to a divorce owns 50% of community property, referring to all real and personal property acquired during the marriage. The law dictates that everything classified as community property must be divided equally between the two parties following their divorce.
Property division always begins by identifying all of the property that either party currently owns. To accomplish this, each person must disclose all property acquired before and during the marriage. Property owned before the marriage will be considered as separate property, and will not be subject to property division.
Family law matters can get very complex. Only a qualified and experienced family law attorney can guide you through its intricacies. So don’t hesitate to hire one should you find yourself dealing with divorce and legal matters that come with it.