The stressful and emotional nature of family law cases makes seeking legal counsel a must. The benefits of a good family law lawyer cannot be oversold — a dedicated lawyer can be the difference between protecting your rights and losing them.
It’s important to do your research when deciding on legal representation. You can get a free consultation with a service like Lawyer.com. And platforms like Rocket Lawyer provide crucial legal documents along with legal oversight and advice.
Family Law Cases
Family law cases deal with the legal aspect of domestic issues. Domestic relationships take many forms — marriage, parent-child relationships or even roommates all fall under this umbrella. The intimate nature of these relationships often makes it difficult for 2 parties to come to an agreement on their own, so having the law intervene is the only remaining option.
Having an impartial but legally obligated professional will help you protect your own rights while ensuring you understand your current and future legal obligations.
The cases that end up in family court include those dealing with separation, divorce, alimony and child custody. Special considerations of LGBTQ couples, prenuptial agreements and prevention of abuse in domestic relationships are common subjects of litigation in family law court, along with paternity and termination of parental rights.
The issue of child support arises in most custody cases. Child support addresses the legal financial obligation of parents. Typically, the parent who spends the least amount of time with a child pays support to the other parent.
The court may make determinations on other types of support, like paying for education, healthcare and more. Some cases require the full legal process — locating the noncustodial parent, proving paternity and determining appropriate levels of support. Typically, you can expect an order to be in place within 6 to 12 months depending on the difficulty of the case. You can shorten the process by finding a solid family law lawyer through a service like Lawyer.com.
Expect to provide a fair amount of documentation for these types of cases — you’ll need to establish your income and monthly expenses for your child among other things. Get prepared for your case with Rocket Lawyer. Not only can you familiarize yourself with custody law, but you can use their comprehensive legal document lookup to get a head start on the evidence you’ll need to present in court.
Divorce, or the legal dissolution of marriage, is governed by state law. During these proceedings, there are several matters that must be settled. The court determines spousal support, child custody, child support, property and debt division.
Divorce can be confusing and complex. There are multiple types of divorce and multiple ways property is divided. No-fault divorces tend to go more smoothly than in fault cases, where one party accuses the other of ruining the marriage. But it’s in your best interest to retain a lawyer either way — the outcome will affect your entire life, including your financial security, where your children live and what you’ll keep from the marriage.
You’ll need extensive documentation in a divorce, even when 2 parties can come to a mutual agreement. A lawyer will help you with legal discovery and fact-finding, ensuring you are prepared to put your best foot forward.
Divorce proceedings are usually long and drawn out. The average divorce takes about a year start to finish. Divorces that head to trial take even longer, usually around 18 months. Get a head start with Rocket Lawyer’s Divorce Center. You’ll find legal advice, educational materials and important documents.
Legal fatherhood and biological fatherhood are separate entities. When a married couple has a child, the parents are legally their father and mother. But when an unmarried couple has a baby, paternity establishment becomes legally necessary. This process ensures that child born to unmarried people have the same financial rights as children born to married parents.
Parents can willingly choose to acknowledge paternity by signing an Affidavit of Parentage. In this instance, the court will sign a family support order. But If there is doubt or an unwillingness to admit parentage, a paternity case can be opened. The court will determine parentage by ordering genetic testing.
These cases can drag on depending on the father’s cooperation. A lawyer with Lawyer.com can help speed things along. You either have to file the claim for paternity yourself or contact your state’s Office of Child Support through the Department of Human Services, who will order a paternity establishment as part of child support proceedings. In this instance, a prosecutor will file the case on your behalf. You have to file an IV-D Child Support Services Application, a process Rocket Lawyer can assist you with.
While nobody likes to imagine getting divorced before they even get married, it’s important to be realistic. It is easier to have a plan in place if things do fall apart rather than trying to make rational decisions during emotionally charged moments.
A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract between 2 potential spouses. This contract ideally addresses any issues that may arise during a divorce, such as the division of property. Prenuptial agreements must be in written form and signed by both parties, so having a lawyer through this process is nearly a non-negotiable.
Many states and counties also require that each party provides a disclosure of assets to reduce disagreements over property later. Connect with an attorney through Lawyer.com to make sure you’re covering all your bases.
Parents have equal rights to custody of their children when they divorce. Joint custody is the status quo, with set visitation schedules for the non-custodial parent. Exclusive custody can be granted and parental rights can be terminated in extreme circumstances. Judges decide custody arrangements by determining what living situation is in the best interest of the child.
Judges will determine this by looking at several factors, including the preferences of the parents and children. They will also consider the income and physical and mental health of each parent. And, weight will be given to the relationship between the parent and child. If one party routinely takes on more responsibility or has a closer relationship with the child, the courts will tend to award custody to that parent.
You’ll want the smoothest transition possible for your children — the guidance of a lawyer can be beneficial here, especially if you think your case will be complicated. A service like Rocket Lawyer will connect you with a family law lawyer that specializes in child custody. They’ll advise you on what paperwork you’ll need, such as your ID, proof of income, and so on. Your lawyer can also represent you in any court proceedings, ensuring that you and your children get the fairest deal possible.
The length of these cases vary but are typically handled quickly. If 2 parties can come to a mutual agreement, the case will be quicker and less expensive. Having a lawyer makes the process more efficient and easier to understand.
Do You Need to be Present?
You will be notified of any and all court proceedings, including whether you have to attend. In most family cases, establishing the character of each party is part of the determination process, so your presence is usually required. If you are ordered to attend and don’t show up, you could be held in contempt of court, which is a violation of a court order. This can lead to legal consequences. It can also lead to your case being dismissed or the opposite party being awarded custody, more spousal support and so forth.
It’s best practice to attend all hearings and other court proceedings — this usually looks better to the judge and can help your case overall.
Hire a Family Law Lawyer Today
The expert guidance of a lawyer is indispensable in emotionally charged family law cases. Find an affordable lawyer with Lawyer.com. Or, get a head start with legal counseling and document assistance using Rocket Lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who pays attorney fees in child custody cases?
A: Each party pays their own fees. The “American Rule” is a legal standard stating that the “losing” side does not pay the other’s fees. Some states have laws that would allow exceptions to this rule, such as when one party makes significantly less money than the other.
Q: What do judges look at in custody cases?
A: Custody is determined by what particular living situation is in the best interest of the child. They’ll consider several factors, including preference of the child, parental preference, the parent-child dynamic, parental income and the physical and mental fitness of each parent.
Q: What do lawyers do in a divorce?
A: Divorce lawyers mediate the legal division of financial assets and debt between spouses. This includes researching and gathering supporting evidence of their client’s claims. If the divorcing couple has children, the lawyer helps decide custody and child support issues.