Common Family Law FAQ’s
Q: What Exactly Is Family Law?
Family law covers all areas of the law pertaining to domestic relationships. A family law lawyer can prepare petitions with the court as well as provide representation for the client in the courtroom. In fact, some jurisdictions have family law courts that are specifically for these cases. Some topics that are included in family law include abuse, adoption, alimony, child custody, child support, divorce, marriage, elder law and separation. The specific family laws differ from one state to the other. However, some areas of family law, such as child custody laws, are dictated by federal law.
- Abuse and Domestic Violence: Generally, abuse and domestic violence cases are handled in family court. Even though the criminal aspects of these cases will be handled in criminal court, the family court can still handle some parts of these cases. For example, with child abuse cases, family law would come into play when deciding whether or not a family should be reunited or if parental rights should be totally terminated. When it comes to domestic abuse cases, then family law would handle any protection orders against the spouse that is abusive. Making sure you are informed on both federal and state laws pertaining to a specific case can be extremely difficult. For this reason, a family law attorney can help successfully present your side of the case, petition the court, and help work out any issues that may come up.
- Child Custody: All issues pertaining to child custody are handled in family court, such as adoption, child support, and visitation. Family law also addresses any changes to orders relating to visitation rights, child custody, etc. The family court also handles adoptions, as well as works closely with adoption agencies in order to ensure that the best interests of the adoptive child are met. This may include undergoing background checks, finishing home studies, and any other requirements dictated by state law.
- Marriage and Divorce: Family law attorneys handle cases pertaining to both marriage and divorce, meaning this also includes legal separations and prenuptial agreements. If a couple is going through a divorce or a legal separation, then the court will typically divide the couple’s property, as well as decide on spousal support payments or alimony. The state where the couple lives dictates how the property is divided. Ultimately, all of these issues can be handled by either going through a mediation process, or during a family law trial.
- Unmarried Couples: In some states, unmarried couples who have been in a long-term relationship qualifies as a common law marriage. Essentially, a common law marriage gives the couple the same rights as married couples have. If couples who are not married have issues pertaining to paternity and other similar situations, a family law lawyer can help you navigate the legal process in a family law court.
Q: What Happens to a Person to Who Does Not Report Child Abuse?
Most states have statutes that apply directly to people who fail to report any cases of child abuse. If a person knew about the child abuse and made no attempts to alert authorities to it, then a person can face punishment. Regardless of whether or not you know about a case of child abuse occurring and have not reported it, or you know of someone who did not report child abuse even though they had knowledge of it, a qualified family law attorney can help you figure out the next best course of action to take.
Q: Can the State Terminate Parental Rights?
Yes, a state can terminate a parent’s rights over their children. In fact, each state has an agency that is specifically geared toward protecting the interests of children, and that agency can request that the court terminate a specific parent’s rights. If this is the case, then the state must also show that the parent is unfit, but also that terminating the relationship is in the best interest of the child. In order for a state to deem a parent “unfit,” the state generally has to prove that the child has been abandoned by the parent, the parent is not able to take care of the child, or that the child is in danger of suffering from some type of abuse.
Q: Why Is a Prenuptial Agreement Important?
There are many reasons why having a prenuptial agreement is important, some of which include:
- Property Protection: A couple may choose to protect specific property for either themselves or for their family. For example, if there are children from a prior marriage, then the biological parent may include certain property in a prenuptial agreement in order to provide for their children.
- Protects a Family Business: If a couple fails to have a premarital agreement, then a family court could give some of your ownership rights to a family business to your former spouse. Seeing as how a family business is considered a valuable asset, then having a part of the business given away will not only take away from it being a “family business,” but also devalue it overall. At the end of the day, a prenuptial agreement can protect your ownership portion of a family business.
- Saves Money: Each spouse is generally represented by a family law lawyer who works to negotiate the property division. Having a prenuptial agreement can get rid of a lot of the time it takes to decide on issues such as alimony or spousal support. By having your financial issues figured out prior to filing for divorce, a couple can expect a quicker and far less expensive divorce process.
- Separates Debt Liability: This ultimately describes how a couple will allocate any debts they had before getting married. For instance, if one spouse comes to the marriage with a lot more credit card debt than the other person, then a prenuptial agreement can make that spouse accountable for that debt.
Ultimately, a prenuptial agreement allows a couple to decide on how they want their property divided while they are on good terms, and generally without any animosity. As a result, it is important to talk about a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married.
Q: How Do You Avoid Having a Prenuptial Agreement Deemed Invalid?
If a prenuptial agreement was not properly executed, then it could be deemed invalid by the court. Some ways to make sure this does not happen include:
- Hire an experienced family law attorney. By enlisting the help of a qualified family law lawyer to draft up your prenuptial agreement, you can avoid the risk of it later being deemed invalid.
- Make sure it is voluntarily executed. Essentially, this means that both parties must be signing the contract on their own accord and without being forced. Each party must also be allowed to have their own family law attorney.
- Do not include child support agreements. Child support agreements are usually not allowed in prenuptial agreements, and as a result will most likely be declared unenforceable by the court.
- Make sure it is fair to both sides. Do not make the prenuptial agreement unfairly one sided, or what the state defines as “unconscionable.”
- Disclose relevant information. Make sure you disclose all important and relevant information to the other spouse before the prenuptial agreement is fully executed.
While having a prenuptial agreement certainly can make filing for divorce that much easier, it must not have any of the aforementioned issues in order to be legally enforced.