What is a Family Law Lawyer?
Family law covers all legal issues related to family and domestic relationships. Lawyers who specialize in this area of the law are family law lawyers. They represent their clients in divorces, child custody and support agreements, alimony mediations, adoptions, and other family situations governed by state laws.
What Do Family Law Lawyers Do?
In addition to representing clients in hearings or in court, these lawyers provide valuable advice and guidance. It can be difficult to make considered decisions with the emotions of the family involved. Family law lawyers guide their clients, consider their best interests, and review and draft documents. Legal situations that family law lawyers can help their clients with include:
- Marriage, pre-nuptial agreements, and domestic partnerships
- Spousal support
- Child custody
- Child support
- Parental rights
- Emancipation of minors
- Foster care
- Domestic violence
- Child abuse and neglect
- Child delinquency
When Do I Need a Family Law Lawyer?
There are few cases in which family law matters do not require a lawyer. This area of the law can be extremely complex. Emotions run high in family disputes and make it difficult to make smart, informed decisions.
Simple matters like a marriage or an amicable divorce with no kids and few assets may be handled without a lawyer. Still, the vast majority of family law cases require a lawyer. These are just a few examples of situations in which you need a family law lawyer:
- You’re getting divorced and need to split assets.
- You’re getting divorced and have children.
- You and your spouse began amicably but now cannot agree on alimony, child support, or child custody terms.
- You have a custody, child support, or alimony agreement, but circumstances have changed, and you want to alter it.
- Your spouse has hired a lawyer.
- Your fiancé has asked you to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
- You suspect a child is being abused or neglected.
- You want to become a foster parent or adopt a child.
- You want legal guardianship over a minor.
- Child protective services is investigating you.
- You have been accused of violating a child custody agreement.
- The child’s other parent is violating the agreement.
Why It’s Best to Hire a Family Law Lawyer
You may think you can handle a legal situation without representation or that you and a partner can agree on terms without conflict. Still, there are many benefits of choosing a lawyer to help you:
- An advocate for you
There may have been a time when you didn’t think your spouse would hurt you, but the gloves often come off in divorce and child custody cases. You need someone advocating for your rights and your best interests. If your ex has a lawyer, you’re already behind.
- An advocate for your child
Again, when children are involved, you may not imagine their mother or father could do anything outside of their best interests. People sometimes make bad decisions when things get heated. An impartial lawyer will always advocate for the children involved.
- Keep relationships stable
You may start out a child custody mediation on good terms, but things can deteriorate. Let a lawyer represent you to be an impartial guide. This helps keep relationships on an even keel, even if you are no longer spouses.
- Realize your dream of being a parent
Adoption is not an easy process. There are many steps to go through and hurdles to jump. You have a better chance of adopting and becoming a parent sooner if you work with an experienced family law lawyer.
- Do everything faster
No one wants to spend all their free time in court or mediation and custody hearings. With lawyers representing parties on both sides, you can negotiate agreements and get through the process much faster.
How to Find the Right Lawyer
Family law is a big part of state law and the court system, so there are plenty of attorneys and firms specializing in these cases. If you can get a referral from someone you trust, that’s a great option. Ask family and friends who have been in similar situations or a lawyer you trust in another area of practice.
Before selecting a lawyer to represent you or your child, be sure you feel comfortable with their expertise, time and resources, and ability to help you. Interview a few firms or lawyers to ask important questions before making this big decision:
- How long have you been practicing family law?
- Do you have a specialty area within family law?
- Do you have references from past clients?
- What would you do next in my case?
- How much time can you devote to my case?
- How long do you think it will take?
- What are the chances I’ll get the outcome I want?
- What are your fees?
Working with Your Family Law Lawyer
To help a lawyer help you, develop a good, professional working relationship right from the start. This means being communicative and easy to contact. It means asking questions and listening to your lawyer’s advice on important decisions. Show up on time, or early, for meetings, hearings and mediations, and be prepared.
Perhaps most importantly, you must provide your lawyer with all the relevant information for your situation. It’s not always easy to talk about the details of your relationships and home life, but they may help make your case. Be honest with your lawyer and know that they can only use information you provide with your permission.
Hiring a family law lawyer may be one of the most important things you do for yourself and your children. Good representation and advice can make the difference between a good outcome and a disappointing result.