Legal Topics


Understanding Family Law

The law covers more than what happens in the public sphere. There are a number of issues that can occur in a domestic environment, or between people related by blood or by marriage. This is where family law comes in.

Family law exists to provide legal counsel during cases that, for most people, would be an emotionally-charged experience. Besides cases involving marriage, divorce, adoption, and child protection, this legal field also considers lesser-known issues like protections for the elderly, conflicts between people in a dating relationship, or even a dispute between roommates.

The most common cases in family law are child custody and child support. A lawyer trained in family law has to evaluate parental responsibility in a given case. This also brings up matters such as paternity questions, as a father—whether married or unwed—can still play a major role in a child’s development. Ultimately, a family law attorney must make their case in court on matters of parental responsibility, with the judge deciding what lies in the best interests of the child.

A family law attorney spends most of their time in negotiation between participants in a civil case. Because of the stress and pain that an argument between relatives or spouses can create, these legal experts have to be patient and persuasive when handling a case. Such attorneys are also well-versed in finances and accounting, due to the prevalence of child support cases and family disputes over money. Family law attorneys will spend more time negotiating between clients and opposing attorneys than they will in a courtroom. Even so, their dockets—or schedules of court proceedings—are often the most crowded in the legal profession.

To get a referral to a family law attorney, it’s best to consider one who’s been recommended by a family member or a friend.  You can also use a lawyer referral service like the kind listed by the American Bar Association, the LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell directory, or online legal communities like FindLaw.

Before taking on an attorney, you have the right to ask about their experience, their understanding of the law as it applies to your case, what fees they’ll charge, and how much time they can afford to give your case. The attorney’s ability to answer these important questions should satisfy you before you proceed. Developing communication with a potential client is essential for any lawyer, let alone one who specializes in family law.

Image Credit: Penn State on Flickr

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