The majority of Americans (33%) describe their ideal evening as one spent “staying home with family,” Gallup reveals. So what happens when that favorite pastime comes into question?
Additionally, “the average family is not even spending 40 minutes together on Monday through Friday,” Study Find writes. Add in complicating factors, factors like separation, divorce, sharing child custody, or even tackling the long and expensive process of adopting a child, and cherished family time suffers even more.
The good news is that family lawyers are here to help you navigate rough waters and some of life’s most challenging times, helping you discover your new normal.
What exactly does a family law attorney do? Learn the basics as well as some interesting facts about family law.
What is Family Law?
There are nearly 1.4 million lawyers actively practicing in the U.S. That means there are more than enough to go around should you need to help in any area of family law. What exactly is family law, and what can lawyers specializing in it do for their clients?
Generally speaking, a family law attorney focuses on areas of law that impact family relationships. This includes commonplace matters, like prenuptial agreements, divorce, child custody, and adoption, and less commonplace matters, like emancipation and establishing paternity. They may also be there to help find solutions for domestic partnerships or in the event of spousal abuse, child abuse, and kidnapping.
During the litigation process, a family law attorney will counsel their clients, mediate negotiations between parties, conduct interviews, gather evidence, organize documents, and represent their clients in court. Should you have any questions or any other needs, talk to your lawyer.
There are many interesting facts about family law. Before you dive deep into these facts, understand the basics. Know that, if you are to experience legal familial troubles, a family lawyer can help.
1. Family Law Attorneys Work With A Surprising Variety of People
Family law raises a lot of questions. What if you are in the middle of a major auto repair? Should you wait? Who contacts who when it comes to red tape and legal investigations?
One of the most interesting facts about family law is that these lawyers do not work with family members only. Their practice may ultimately entail working with several professionals and some that you might not expect.
For example, divorce involves splitting up financial assets, like cash, savings, and assets, like motor vehicles. Should one of you get in a car accident during the divorce process, it can become tricky knowing what the breakdown of finances will be. A lawyer can help. If the vehicle is still mutually owned, a lawyer may talk to your auto mechanic and insurance company to confirm the cost and extent of the repair. Likewise, if you are sued for injury damages before the divorce is final, you and your spouse may very well end up sharing that debt. Before completing the divorce process and determining who owns what, finances can get tricky. Talk to a lawyer if you have any questions.
A lawyer may also reach out to other professionals while splitting up property during a divorce or while working with a couple to finalize the process of adopting a baby. For example, if you are selling your house in the midst of a divorce, your attorney may talk to your real estate agent about your listing and the approximate value of your home. Similarly, a family law attorney may work with social workers and/or representatives from the adoption agency one-on-one throughout the entire process of adopting your child.
One of the most interesting facts about family law is that it is a diverse and complex field, involving a lot of collaboration. Be prepared. Your lawyer may reach out to those around you to help negotiate your case.
2. Divorce Lawyers Lend Much-Needed Support
When purchasing a diamond engagement ring, many of us never imagine that — one day — you and your spouse may decide to call it quits. Even after years of marriage, it is an incredibly personal and emotional decision and one that can easily take a toll. Thankfully, a family law attorney is well-aware of the many heightened emotions that come up during a divorce, and they can be there to help you work through them.
Here is what to expect when working with a qualified and compassionate divorce lawyer.
- Amicable and fair negotiations. A divorce lawyer can meet with you separately and then together with your spouse to negotiate the fair division of assets. They can educate you about the particulars of divorce law and prepare and review potential settlements. After meeting with you and your spouse, they can adjust settlement plans as necessary.
- A divorce that is settled outside of court. “Only 5% of all divorce cases end up in court,” according to The Huffington Post. Add your divorce to that list. A lawyer can help you keep your case out of court, even when emotions are running high.
- Open and honest communication. As previously touched upon — yes, many people’s emotions do get the better of them during the divorce process. If your emotions are so overwhelming that you are struggling with everyday tasks, like picking up around your home and getting much-needed HVAC repairs, talk to your lawyer. Chances are, you are not alone. According to Family Lawyer Magazine, “Lawyers should educate their clients about the emotional rollercoaster that is divorce. They should advise clients that they might experience a lot of strong emotions during the divorce process, and let clients know that it is normal to feel overwhelmed, ambivalent, or confused during the divorce process.” If you are experiencing any of these things and they are affecting your divorce proceedings, be honest about it. Your lawyer will likely have some resources or strategies to help.
- Level-headed discussions about child custody. As with the divorce itself, determining child custody can be a contentious affair. Family law attorneys can help navigate and mitigate emotions to help parties reach clear, level-minded decisions.
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about family law is that family law attorneys are trained to be compassionate. While other areas of law may deal with strictly the facts, a divorce attorney or adoption lawyer expects to work with you and help you through some of life’s biggest challenges.
3. Child Custody Lawyers Look After Your Children’s Welfare
Speaking of child custody, it is one of the most important aspects of family law and it is also one of the least understood. While divorcing parents may be thinking about how child custody arrangements will affect them, the court makes a point of doing the opposite. Instead, judges and courts often try to determine what is best for your child. Here are the different types of child custody and the factors that weigh on courts’ child custody decisions.
One of the interesting facts about family law that many do not know is that there are different types of child custody. The two most basic and important types of child custody are legal and physical custody.
Legal custody entails making legal decisions about your child’s welfare. For example, if you have legal custody of your child, you will determine where they attend school, choose a pediatrician, and set up their dental appointments. If you have sole legal custody, it will be entirely up to you to decide the best orthodontist for your child should they need braces.
Physical custody refers to where your child lives. If your child lives with either parent, both parents at different times, or a guardian, they have physical custody.
It is most common to have joint physical and legal custody or to have joint physical custody with one parent maintaining legal custody or being entirely responsible for the child’s legal decisions.
Lawyers and the courts will look out for your child’s health and well-being. In many cases, that means spending time with both parents. If custody arrangements are in question, courts will consider:
- “Each parent’s ability to provide for the children’s physical needs, emotional wellness, and medical care,” according to VeryWell Family.
- If they are old enough to weigh in, the judge will consider your children’s wishes.
- The parent’s or guardian’s living accommodations and ability to provide a loving, stable home. The judge or courts won’t get too persnickety here. They will ignore small details. The courts will not be interested in your new fence or that you recently painted the exterior of your home with a fresh layer of paint. Instead, they will see if it’s a clean and sanitary environment for your child. It will also work in your favor if you have a bedroom or designated space for your child. Ask your lawyer if you have any questions.
- Child custody arrangements thus far. Many judges try to maintain consistency to promote the well-being of your child. If one parent has been notably absent during the divorce or separation process, that may factor into the judge’s decision.
Like you, a family lawyer wants what is best for your child. They will ask you what you think is best, talk to your child (if they are old enough), and make decisions appropriately.
4. Adoption Lawyers Bring Families Together
Many families dream of a home in the countryside, a white picket backyard fence, and young children running around in the yard. Unfortunately for some, that dream is not always possible. Whether you cannot have children and wish to adopt or simply want to adopt, a family lawyer can help you.
Perhaps among the most interesting facts about family law is that family law is not just about contentious familial relationships. Family law can also be about bringing people together — particularly in the case of adoption.
If you plan to tackle the legal process of adopting a child, here is what to expect:
- Termination of parental rights. Before you can call your child your own, bring them home, and take them to see local attractions, many courts require the legal termination of parental rights (TPR) first. While it is possible to begin the adoption process without it, these adoptions are considered high-risk adoptions.
- Consent to adopt. The legal consent to adopt will include the TPR as well as a statement from the adoption agency granting their approval for the adoption. If the child is 13 or older, some states may require their consent as well.
- Finalization. “Finalization is the legal process which transfers custody of the child from the adoption agency, county, or state to the adoptive parents,” The Adoption Center writes. This can only happen after a legally mandated waiting period, during which the child lives in your home. It varies by state. In most states, this waiting period is six months.
One of the most interesting facts about family law is that it can bring families together as well. Talk to a family law attorney about adopting your child directly from an adoption agency or about adopting through foster care.
5. Family Law Promises Life-Changing Advice and Lasting Care
Family law involves legal separation, divorce, child custody, adoption, abuse, parental rights, child abuse, and child neglect. In other words, the decisions made in the name of family law change lives. Family lawyers know this, and they serve accordingly.
For the most part, legal cases are just another fact of life. Maybe we get into a car accident, settle out of court, and then, months or years later, mostly forget about it. The same is not true for family law. One of the most interesting facts about family law is that these legal decisions follow families for months — and even years — to come. Invest in the right family law attorney to make it happen.
Just like you would invest in lock repair after a robbery, if you suspect your spouse is neglecting or abusing your child, for example, invest in an attorney who will take every possible legal step to find out the truth and do something about it.
What are the most interesting facts about family law? Perhaps the most interesting takeaway about family law is that it is complex and far-reaching. Family law brings families together or helps them amicably and reasonably work while apart.