Family Law Attorney

Common Knowledge Every Family Law Attorney Should Know

Do you have any experience working with clients who are experiencing emotional or personal challenges during legal proceedings?

When it comes to legal matters, you want a family law attorney who is focused and experienced. The right lawyer will put you at ease and be there for you during difficult times.

Child Custody

When parents divorce, they must decide on a custody arrangement. Custody includes the right to make decisions regarding a child’s education, values, health care and religious upbringing. Decision-making authority can be split between parents (referred to as joint legal custody) or granted solely to one parent, which is referred to as sole physical custody. Children may also live with each parent separately, which is called split-custody or shared custody.

When deciding a custody agreement, the court considers various factors, including the wishes of the child, any history of domestic violence and how each parent has met the needs of the child. However, judges are human and some have biases based on gender.

Studies show that kids do best when they have a relationship with both their parents. Therefore, courts usually award joint custody unless there is reason to believe that it will not be in the child’s best interests. Even in cases where one parent receives primary custody, the non-custodial parent usually gets visitation rights or parenting time. This is often arranged so that the child lives with the non-custodial parent during the week and spends the weekend and school holidays with the other parent.

Divorce

One out of every two marriages ends in divorce. A divorce dissolves the marriage and determines custody, placement of children, property division and alimony. Divorce laws differ from state to state, so family law attorneys need to know how divorces are handled in their jurisdictions.

The first step in a divorce is filing a complaint with the court. A sheriff or other person delivers a copy of the complaint to the spouse, which is called service of process. Once the spouse receives a complaint, the judge holds a pre-trial conference and gathers information from both parties. At this point, either party may request temporary orders for child custody, visitation or support.

Most Western countries have no-fault divorce systems, which means that neither spouse is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Spouses can file a petition for divorce based on “irreconcilable differences” or the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” depending on the jurisdiction.

Other grounds for divorce include desertion, which is when a spouse leaves the home without permission and does not return for more than a year. Adultery and impotency are also grounds for divorce, but these are difficult to prove in the courtroom.

Child Support

Although child custody is a common concern during divorce or separation, it is not the only issue that parents must deal with. In addition to finding a fair and appropriate parenting plan, parents must also decide how much child support they are entitled to receive or pay. Child support can cover a wide range of expenses, including basic needs (food, clothing and housing), extracurricular activities, health insurance co-pays or deductibles, and daycare and before/after school care costs.

A family law attorney with experience handling child support cases can help parents determine how much they should pay or receive. In most states, a judge will approve a child support amount after reviewing each parent’s finances and a calculation of the basic child support obligation. The judge may also include add-on expenses in the order.

Parents are required to financially support their children until they turn 19 years old or they graduate high school, whichever occurs first. In some cases, the court can extend child support payments if the child is enrolled in a cooperative innovative high school program. Parents can request a reduction in their child support payments by filing a petition with the court. This petition must include a significant change in circumstances.

Property Division

In divorce cases, property division is the process by which a judge allocates a couple’s assets during a divorce. Marital property is anything that both spouses earned or acquired during marriage, unless they signed a prenuptial agreement stating that some of their assets are separate from each other. It’s important for a family law attorney to know the laws regarding property division, especially in states like New York, which is an equitable distribution state rather than a community property state.

One of the first steps in property division is accurately valuing each asset. This often requires the help of an expert, such as a financial specialist or forensic accountant. The process can be complex, particularly in high-net worth cases or when it comes to dividing substantial retirement accounts.

Another important aspect of property division is understanding the difference between separate and marital property. Separate property is any asset that you owned prior to marriage, such as a house or car. However, if you use your separate property to pay for marital property, that asset becomes commingled property and will be eligible for equitable distribution in the event of a divorce. It’s critical for a family law attorney to know the rules surrounding commingled and separate property so they can ensure their clients are protected.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenup is a document that details what will happen to the parties’ property and assets in the event of a divorce or death. It usually contains a list of each partner’s individual assets, some indication of which property will remain the separate property of that party in the event of a divorce, guidelines on how to divide up any property acquired during the marriage and responsibility for debts, and an outline of spousal support.

A surprisingly romantic thing about a prenup is that it forces both parties to have an open and honest discussion about their finances and assets before getting married. Having these conversations can foster intimacy and trust in the relationship, as well as prevent issues from being left to the court to decide in the event of a separation or divorce.

A prenup can be especially helpful if one or both of the partners have substantial assets or debt from previous relationships that they want to protect, or if both parties have children from prior marriages. It can also help couples create a shared financial strategy by providing clear and consistent rules for dividing up their assets and property. In addition, a prenup can ensure that if a spouse needs support during the marriage it is clearly defined and can be enforced, rather than leaving the terms of such support up to the court to decide.

Settlement Agreements

The settlement process in family law is where the parties set out their plan for how they wish to proceed with various aspects of their case, such as property division, custody, and support. The terms of the settlement are then incorporated into the divorce decree. Settlements are often reached before trial through negotiations, sometimes using a mediator.

When preparing settlement agreements, it is important to clearly describe the issues involved in the case and the specific terms of the resolution. It is also important to ensure that all legal requirements have been met. This may include the requirement that a party receive independent legal advice. It is also critical that a clear clause be included in the agreement to state that any settlement is subject to approval by the court.

It is a good idea to consult with a family attorney before entering into any settlement talks. This will ensure that the attorney understands what is being agreed to and that the client is aware of the consequences if they do not adhere to the agreement. The attorney can also advise the client on whether the negotiated amounts are tax-deductible. This is an important consideration when dealing with the division of assets and debts.

Legal Separation

A couple who wants to live apart may choose legal separation instead of divorce. The legal separation process can be used to establish court-ordered rights and responsibilities related to property and debt division, parenting their children and child support. It may also be used to preserve certain benefits like insurance policies that would be severed in a divorce.

In addition, legal separation provides the opportunity for both parties to determine whether they want to reconcile or divorce at a later date. The grounds for a legal separation typically mirror state laws regarding the grounds for divorce and can include incompatibility, abandonment or adultery.

As a family law attorney, it is important to have familiarity with a wide range of issues that can arise in a legal case involving a family. It is equally important to have a strong understanding of the specific legal processes involved in each issue, such as custody determinations, property division and child support. Having knowledge of these different areas allows the family lawyer to assist their clients