Also known as matrimonial law, family law is an area of legal practice that deals with domestic subjects, including marriage, civil unions, guardianship, adoption, child custody, domestic violence, restraining orders, and more. Because these matters are usually kept quiet for the good of all parties involved, the average person has many questions when they visit a family lawyer for the first time. Here are the most common questions attorneys answer on a regular basis.
What is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment?
Although both can be used to dissolve a marriage, there are important legal distinctions between the two. The most obvious is that an annulment treats the marriage as if it never happened. As such, neither party is subject to any penalties, contracts, or agreements that might normally accompany a dissolution of marriage. Fraud, forced consent, and underage marriage are the most common grounds family law attorneys use for seeking an annulment.
How is Child Custody Established?
If the former couple cannot agree on primary guardianship, a court will make the decision for them based on what is in the best interests of the child. At that point, the couple may discuss visitation privileges and come to an agreement, or the court set a schedule for them.
What is Child Support?
Because caring for a child can be expensive, the court may order a parent to pay a certain amount of money to the spouse who retains primary custody on a monthly basis. These payments may be used to cover the following expenses:
– Clothing, food, and shelter
– Medical care
– Educational needs
What is Alimony?
Also known as spousal support, alimony is a means of financial assistance that is paid from one spouse to another during or after a divorce. In most cases, it is ordered by a court when one spouse is substantially dependent on the other for maintenance and support. For example, alimony is often ordered when the spouse who stayed home with the children must go back to work after a long absence. Because that spouse may not have the work history and/or skills to support themselves in the manner they’ve become accustomed to, alimony may be ordered to help them make up the difference after separation or divorce.
What is Mediation?
Because filing for divorce can be an extremely lengthy, expensive legal process, many couples choose family law mediation instead. A simple, surprisingly effective method of resolving disputes, mediation puts the two parties together to discuss an amicable settlement. Although lawyers may be involved in the process, it is really the third-party mediator that gets the sides talking. When successful, this dispassionate interlocutor can save couples huge amounts of money on legal fees.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Stress, emotion, and uncertainty about the future make family law cases extremely difficult to get through. An experienced attorney can help explain your legal rights and protect your interests both in and out of the courtroom. Whether you are fighting for custody of your kids or filing a restraining order against an ex, a seasoned attorney can lend a hand during a stressful, confusing time.