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Family lawyers handle all types of family-related issues, including divorce, child support and spousal support, custody, adoption, paternity and guardianship. Family attorneys can also handle prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and divide marital assets based on the policies outlined in these documents. Domestic violence cases are also within the purview of family law attorneys.
In most states, family court is a division of the district court rather than a separate court system. Family law judges primarily preside over family disputes, such as divorce and custody hearings. Most states require family law judges to receive special training on how to best address family law matters.
The duration of custody cases can differ based on the circumstances surrounding the claim. A case in which parents agree to split custody can be quick, while lawsuits in which both parents or guardians are fighting for full custody can take much longer. Most child custody cases last three to 10 days, but this can vary under more challenging circumstances.
There are no juries in family court cases because the concept of innocence or guilt does not apply. While there may be some cases in which additional opinions could be helpful, most cases are based on the letter of the law versus individual circumstances. Some states, including Texas, permit jury trials for family court cases, but this is uncommon.
First and foremost, if you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse, immediate help is available. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for safe, confidential, personal help and resources, by phone or text. From a legal perspective, abuse cases are very serious matters and usually require evidence to proceed. Due to the he-said-she-said nature of these cases, many attorneys require some form of proof, which may include:
Pictures of the physical abuse, including cuts, bruises, or destroyed property
Medical reports of injuries
Witnesses who have seen some or all of the altercations and can validate the claim
Unfortunately, obtaining this kind of evidence isn’t always easy. Many domestic violence cases happen in the home without witnesses, and physical evidence may either be absent or temporary. Victims of domestic abuse are encouraged to collect as much evidence as possible, and, as noted above, to seek safety and protection as soon as possible.
Family law covers a variety of different cases pertaining to familial relations. The most common cases in family court include:
Mediation can be a valuable part of a divorce case, counseling spouses to work through areas of disagreement in a fair, calm, and unbiased manner. Most, but not all, family lawyers handle mediation. Anyone who believes they may need intervention services is encouraged to ask about an attorney’s experience with resolving disputes, to ensure that support is available if necessary.
Family law is an area of legal practice that places a special focus on issues concerning families. Common areas of family law include separation of assets and potential alimony arrangements during a divorce, child custody and child support mediation between estranged or divorced parents, paternity cases, and matters of adoption. Family lawyers not only oversee mediation during disputes over things like child support and custody arrangements, but they also represent parties' interests when family matters are dealt with in court.
When two parents do not live together with a child, one will be named as the custodial parent. The designated parent—or other guardian if both biological parents are deemed unfit—will have precedence in any legal decisions made concerning the child's life, including education and other matters of the child's welfare. The other parent is referred to as the noncustodial parent.
When a child lives with one parent full time after a divorce or a legal separation, that parent has sole custody. This parent will be fully responsible for providing basic necessities for the child's well-being, including food, shelter, and clothing. The alternative is joint custody, in which both parents share physical custody of the child, based on a predetermined legal arrangement.
While they may sound the same, sole custody is not identical to full custody. In full custody, the noncustodial parent may have visitation rights, while in sole custody, they do not. A court would rule that a parent has sole custody rather than full custody when only one parent is deemed fit to act in the best interests of the child.
Joint custody is a preset arrangement that occurs after a marriage is dissolved. In joint custody, a child lives with their custodial parent for certain days or weeks and their noncustodial parent for the remainder. The custody arrangement may be decided in a hearing, but if two parents come up with a suitable agreement on their own, the court will likely accept it.
There are a number of characteristics to look for in a good family lawyer. The first is experience. An experienced family law attorney will understand the right steps to take to come to an equitable resolution that reflects the best interests of the family, often without going to court. The ability to communicate and act as an intermediary between parties in a dispute is important, whether it concerns a divorce, custody, paternity, or something else. Family legal disputes can be stressful to manage, especially when mediation and finding a common ground is involved. A good family lawyer is also available as a resource to help their client navigate a difficult situation in a way that won't harm their chances for a positive resolution.
A mother could lose custody of her child if she's deemed unfit to provide or take proper care of them. This decision often comes as a result of the mother being unable to provide a safe home or take care of a child's basic needs. It can also come from a mother abusing the child or neglecting them, abusing drugs and alcohol, or frequently being arrested.
In any of these cases, the state can revoke custody from the mother, citing details learned through home visits, interviews, court records, and a variety of other sources as the reasons. In this case, sole custody would be given to the other parent, if he/she is able.