Family law is a broad term that covers a variety of civil cases that resolve conflicts within family units. The purpose of family law is to be sure that all parties involved are heard equally to arrive at the best possible outcome. Family cases can be emotionally charged and difficult because they involve litigants that are related, have built lives together, and, at some point, shared love with one another.
While family courts encourage resolutions that take place outside of the courtroom, ultimately the court process will intervene if the parties cannot reach an amicable agreement. While there are many types of cases heard in family law courts, there are four that are the most common.
Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage
This is the area of family law that most people are familiar with. When a couple determines that a marriage cannot continue, they will file the appropriate paperwork with the court and begin the process of dissolving the marriage. The courts will encourage spouses to work out the details of the divorce on their own but will intervene if they are unable to reach an agreement. Through this process, family law courts also have the responsibility for the following:
- Child custody/support
- Division of property
- Division of assets
- Spousal support
These details, among others that arise in the separation, need to be handled legally to protect both parties. It is also necessary to establish clear legal directives so that each party can move forward, particularly for those couples that are separating and have children.
While the terminology sounds different, divorce and dissolution of marriage are essentially the same process. It is simply one term versus another.
Child Custody and Visitation
This may be one of the most difficult parts of family law. Children often feel caught in a game of tug-of-war between their parents. Handling child custody and visitation in family law is a delicate, but sometimes necessary process.
When spouses who are seeking a divorce have children, resolving the visitation and custody issues amicably is a top priority. This may involve several mediated conversations. However, if both parties cannot agree, the court will then decide based on the facts of each case. These facts may include parental income, criminal background, and even the location of the potential home. Primary consideration will be given to the child’s greatest needs, such as health and schooling.
If there is a “custody battle,” spouses may try to persuade the court that the other is unfit to have custody and may even allege abuse or neglect. Family law courts help to work through the allegations to find out the truth.
The bottom line in any child custody case is that decisions are based on one fact: the best interests of the child.
Once custody has been established, there is often a process to determine the financial support for that child. This will often come down to parental income. Parents will provide their financial records to the court to determine their financial stability and income levels. This will be measured against the cost of supporting a child until they are 18. The court will process the information and make a determination that involves percentages of income.
In any dissolution of marriage, there is often the question of money. This is one area of family law that can become very contentious. The court will determine if there is a financial obligation from one spouse to another simply based on the difference in assets and income. If one spouse makes significantly more than the other, then they may be obligated to provide financial support for a determined amount of time to the other spouse.
This process can cause very heated arguments between both parties, particularly if one blames the other for the separation and feels that the payment is unfair. Additionally, there are factors that play a role in determining spousal support, such as the length of the marriage, criminality during the marriage, and health, among others.
What Other Types of Cases Are Covered by Family Law?
A: While family law is commonly known to handle cases such as those above, other types of litigation include, but are not limited to:
- Domestic partnerships
- Domestic violence
- Legal separation
- Pre- and postnuptial agreements
- Modifications to any custody or support order
When agreements cannot be reached in these civil cases, the court will hear the facts and provide a determination.
What Are the Stages in Family Court Cases?
A: Bringing litigation to family court and reaching a resolution can be a lengthy process, but that process often involves:
- Filing paperwork
- Serving involved parties
- Allowing time for a response
- Any issuance of temporary orders
- Disclosure of information
These steps allow both parties to process the information in the case to reach the best outcome possible.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Family Law Case?
A: While many family law issues start out with the best interests of both parties in mind, negotiation and mediation can quickly turn into arguments without resolution. There could be allegations of wrongdoing or agreements that one party feels pressured into taking. Both parties often feel that they are entitled to certain results and therefore argue for them. Because of this, it is always recommended to have an experienced family law attorney to help you through your litigation.
What If My Family Law Case Involves a Spouse Actively Serving in the Military?
A: Family law courts make accommodations for those whose cases involve active military members. There are special sets of laws that can help to keep family law processes moving forward. However, there may be situations or certain details that require the presence of both parties. If that applies to your case, it may be put on hold temporarily until the serving spouse is able to return.
Family Law in California
Legal proceedings involving family can be disheartening and difficult. If you are facing a potential family law case, it is important that your best interests are looked after. To do that, get an expert attorney on your side. Choosing the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires puts that expertise to work for you through a family law attorney that knows California law. Contact our office today.