From the newest member of our team, Wendy Diaz…
Today, we’re talking about Family Law. What is it?
Family Law is the area of law that pertains to family relationships. Whether a person is married to someone, whether they have an intimate relationship, whether they live together, and the different relationships with people that might be friends that turn into family.
Things that are involved in Family Law include marriage, obviously, divorce (which is now called dissolution of marriage), paternity, custody (which is now called time-sharing), adoption, emancipation, conservatorships and guardianships.
Throughout the course of the next few weeks (or so), we’ll discuss each one in detail, but for now, it’ll be just a good overview of what Family Law is.
The first thing is marriage. That’s the one thing people always go to Family Law. Mom and Dad come together.
With marriage, we can do a couple of things – there’s the pre-nup and the post-nup.
Most people have heard about pre-nups. It is a contract you enter before the marriage, just in case a dissolution might come along later on. A post-nup is after you get married.
The requirements for a pre and post-nup are different, because at one point, you’re married, and at one point, you’re not.
Divorce, or dissolution of marriage, comes when the love is no longer there, people grow apart, circumstances happen and cause people to reevaluate the marriage.
With marriage, there is sometimes alimony. There are five different types of alimony, and they all have their own separate criteria. The main criteria is how long you were married to your spouse before the dissolution takes place.
The types of alimony include temporary alimony (which is during the course of the proceeding), bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent.
Bridge-the-gap is helping the less affluent spouse throughout the process.
Rehabilitative is helping with school, getting back on your feet and entering the single life.
Durational goes with the length of one’s marriage, and permanent is…well,,,permanant.
Another popular field of Family Law is paternity.
Sometimes, a Mom and a Dad aren’t married when a baby comes along. Paternity is a way that Mom and Dad can make sure that the child’s best interests are taken care of, and that both of their rights are protected as Mom and Dad or as Dad and Dad or Mom and Mom. We go from the birth certificate all the way to establishing who the father is and what the conditions of custody, or time-sharing, would be.
That brings us to custody, which is now called time-sharing. The reason it’s called time-sharing is that it’s more positive for the kids. You want to share your time with the person that helped you make your child.
And then comes child support.
With custody, how long you have with your child, could depend on child support.
Custody (time-sharing) overlap with paternity cases and with dissolution of marriage cases, when there is a child involved.
Another aspect is adoption.Sometimes, whether it’s step-parent adoption, grandparent adoption or a family friend adoption (where the grownup isn’t related to the child, such as the auntie or uncle that’s always around and circumstances have happened where this adult wants to take custody of the child to take care of them.
Fun fact about adoption: if the child is twelve years old or older, they have to consent. Other people that have to consent are the other parties involved, the other parents, and there is a procedure to go forward.
In all of these, the main focus is the child’s best interest. We want children to grow up in the best environment for them to thrive, and with these changes in vocabulary, it’s turning into child-focused more than the traditional bickering that we sometimes see on television.
Some less popular parts of Family Law involve emancipation, where a lot of people go back to Macauley Culkin (Kevin McAllister from Home Alone), where he wanted to separate himself and become independent from his parents. So, emancipation is a child wanting to become a grownup while they’re still technically a minor.
The last part of Family Law is conservatorships and guardianships.
Conservatorships come with the power to help someone make financial decisions. A guardianship is where someone handles legal and financial matters, because the person is incapacitated, because of personal or health reasons. Those procedures are very, very strict, because no court wants to have a person be taken advantage of when they’re not their best selves.
That’s a lot about Family Law. A lot of people would not have thought Family Law is so diverse and so focused on so many different things. But that is family. Family is complicated, and it has a lot of layers. It has a lot of avenues that people may not see day-to-day, and they come up now and then.
So, the next question is, “Do I need a lawyer for Family Law?”
The answer is – it depends.
It depends on your situation. It depends on whether the other parties agree. It depends on what the child feels or wants, because if the child is over twelve, they have the ability to say yes or no.
Attorney’s fees. Lawyers and fees and family.
Attorney’s fees are a separate motion, and it involves how proactive one can be in their case. Sometimes, if it stalls, for less than conventional reasons. Sometimes, a judge might order the other party to pat attorney’s fees, which could complicate the relationship and the case going forward.
It is advantageous to have an attorney, especially when things like this come along when one party wants to have attorney’s fees because of some disagreement or because something might be taking too long.
It’s our job to make sure that the other party does their job, because if not, we’ll be asking for attorney’s fees. No one ever wants to burden their client with unnecessary costs, when they are doing everything they can for their case, for their family and for their property. So, that is one aspect that the court can use to make sure that the cases move along (not swiftly, but at a good pace).
We’ll be delving into all of these avenues of Family Law in greater detail soon!