Family Law: What Are Family Law Matters?
Family law is a field of the law which mainly deals with domestic legal issues and family related matters. The concept of family law was developed in the seventeenth century in England, when the Parliament passed the Estate of Man act, giving power to a family head who would administer his or her estate, subject to the wishes of other members of the family. This gave the family head a much greater degree of power than was usual in the community. This was not without its critics, who pointed out that this power given to the family head could be abused. As a result, the laws regulating the administration of the estate were changed to give more power to the community, rather than the family head.
The modern practice of family law litigation began after the passage of the English Provisions. The most significant change to the system of law relating to family matters occurred in the eighteenth century, with the adoption of the civil law system. This marked the beginning of family law litigation, wherein disputes between individuals or groups over matters such as property, divorce, child custody and alimony were settled by the courts. The evolution of this system marked a new period in which both parties would seek counsel from an attorney who would mediate the dispute in family court. This system remains highly popular today, with approximately half of all marriages in the United States being governed by civil codes. Many people still choose to use this system when they seek to settle their marital disputes.
The courts now regulate many other family related matters including child support and alimony, although they have not been involved in the regulation of many employment related matters. In some instances, family law has been used to provide for child support payments. For example, in the case of the wife who was subject to spousal support, who was not permitted to work outside the home due to a previous marriage, or in the case of a man who was granted spousal support after his divorce, but whose wife has remarried. The family courts have also been utilized to rule on the definition of marriage, the procedure for getting a divorce, the definition of children, property settlements, and other important matters.
One area that is often addressed by family law is the issue of cohabitation. Under the family law system, there is a right of maintenance for both spouses in a marriage, even if the marriage has broken down. There are two types of maintenance – a payment amount or alimony. In the former, the wife or husband must make a specified number of payments every month to the other individual or pay him/her directly, whereas in the latter, alimony is defined as making a particular sum of money dependent upon the conduct of each spouse and the relationship of the married couple. Maintenance laws are generally designed to ensure a basic level of financial security for both individuals.
Separation is another area that family law addresses. When two individuals who are legally married separate from each other, the court will decide the particulars of their separation. The courts have the prerogative to order all parties to refrain from furthering in the marriage until the matter has been finalized through a divorce, annulment, dissolution, or death. There is also a process for collecting child support from one party who has moved out of the house with the children after the breakup.
Child support is also an area of family law matters that is commonly tackled. When one spouse is legally separated from the other, the custodial parent (usually the wife) is expected to provide child support to the other spouse (usually the husband). Child support payments are calculated based on the income of each spouse, the number of children being raised, and the duration of the marriage. If the marriage was entered into before the child support guidelines were revised in the mid-1990s, there is now a rebuttable presumption that the payments are lawful.