According to survey results, Americans’ knowledge of civic law has jumped in the last couple of years. However, knowing your civic rights is a very different kettle of fish from family law. Most people are largely unaware of what family law involves until they find themselves facing things like divorce or child custody arrangements
So what is family law? Family law is a crucial branch of law that governs matters related to family, shared property, and dependents.
If you’re entering into marriage, dissolving one, or dealing with any other family matter that involves things like division of property, child support, etc. you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the basic facts around family law.
Get informed and keep reading to find out 8 key things to know about family law.
1. Estate Planning Falls Under Family Law
Estate planning is one of the most critical (and often overlooked) areas that family law encompasses. Reports reveal that 67% of Americans don’t have an estate plan.
One reason for this is that most of us don’t enjoy thinking about our mortality. Estate planning can easily become one of those personal “admin” tasks that get put on the back burner.
However, proper estate planning is critical for ensuring the financial security of your family. It can also help preserve family relationships, reduce disputes, and cut down on the costs involved in winding up a diseased estate.
If you need to conduct estate planning, one of the first things to do is seek out a lawyer who specializes in family law. They will be able to help you develop a plan to mitigate estate taxes, draft a clear, undisputable will, draft living trusts, and help you create things like a durable power of attorney
2. Prenuptials Are Another Area of Family Law
Many people are aware that divorce is a family court matter, but did you know that pre-nuptials are another branch of family law?
Just like family law governs the dissolution of marriage, it also covers marriage contracts.
Similar to estate planning, marriage contracts are another area of family law that is very easy to overlook. If you’re caught up in the early stages of romance, the last thing you probably want to think about is legal matters.
However, creating a well-thought-out, comprehensive marriage contract is critical. Marriage contracts and pre-nuptial agreements stipulate how your property is combined, and how it’s divided should your marriage come to an end.
Most couples do not want to consider this eventuality when they’re on the verge of tying the knot. But creating a comprehensive marriage contract is as important as drawing up a will. Often, marriage contracts and wills overlap, as they both deal with what happens to your property in the event of your death.
3. Family Law Also Covers Abuse and Domestic Violence
Because family law handles matters relating to family, it also covers abuse and domestic violence. If you, your child, or someone you know has suffered from domestic abuse, you should consult with an attorney who specializes in family law as soon as possible.
4. If You’re Getting a Divorce You’ll Want to Hire a Family Lawyer
Divorce is one of the most well-known branches of family law. Family law governs how property is divided during a divorce and how alimony is determined. It also decrees what constitutes as legal grounds for divorce, and who is the “at-fault” party in states that operate under the fault divorce system.
If you’re in the process of getting divorced, a family attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure an equitable outcome.
5. Family Law Encompasses Child Custody Matters
If there are children in a marriage, child custody is often one of the most important, and sometimes sensitive, matters to resolve.
Family law encompasses everything to do with child custody, including physical custody, visitation rights, child support, etc.
6. Family Law Varies by State
Here in the US, we operate under two legal systems, the federal system and the state-level legal systems.
Every state has its own legislation, and family law comes under the jurisdiction of state law. Federal law doesn’t cover cases related to family law.
Also, even though a new law or bill can be created or amended under federal law, this doesn’t necessarily change anything on a state level. It is up to the individual states to adapt their constitution to new federal legislation.
Therefore, laws can vary widely between states.
If you are going through a divorce, drafting a will—or anything else that falls under family law—you need to consider your specific state’s legislation. The specifics of your case can vary widely depending on what state you reside in and its specific laws.
For instance, some states operate under an at-fault divorce system and others don’t.
7. Family Law Isn’t Necessarily About Winning
Another important thing to know about family law is that, unlike civil law, it’s not always about winning. Yes, you want to ensure your rights are upheld and that you receive a fair and just outcome, but the focus isn’t necessarily on one party winning and the other losing. Instead, family law cases are often a process of negotiation whereby both parties (ideally) receive a favorable outcome.
Thanks to this, the majority of family law cases are often settled out of court through processes like mediation. For example, statistics reveal that 90% of child custody disputes settle without a courtroom ruling.
Because family law often doesn’t involve liability, a process known as collaborative family law has emerged. Under collaborative family law, attorneys have an increased focus on preserving relationships between family members, while negotiating for positive outcomes for all parties.
8. Family Law Is Subject to Change
Family law is also unique in that it’s one of the branches of law most subject to change. Instead of remaining static, family law needs to evolve along with society.
For instance, while same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized in a number of states until recently, it is now legal in all states.
Are You in Need of a Family Law Attorney?
As its name suggests, family law encompasses legal matters to do with families, such as marriage contracts, child support, alimony, divorce, estate planning, and domestic abuse.
Whether you’re embarking on marriage, dissolving your legal union, trying to get custody, or simply looking to draft a will, you need a good family law attorney on your side.
Not sure where to find one? We can help.
Create an account, or search for family lawyers near you from our homepage.