What Does Family Law Cover?
Family law is a legal area of the civil law dealing specifically with domestic relationships and family matters. The term family law refers to the entire body of law which is created by statute and made up of several branches. Each country has different types of family law, as well as a variety of judges who are responsible for overseeing the courts. There are also attorneys who specialize in family law.
The most common issue that family law addresses concerns issues surrounding marriages and the termination of marital relationships. Typically a marriage will last for a period of time, from one to twenty years, during which time it may be dissolved or annulled depending upon the circumstances under which it was entered into. Many laws also deal with the dissolution of civil unions, which have been dissolved through either divorce or death. Divorces that occur before the completion of a marriage may still need to be finalized according to family law. For instance, if a divorce was agreed upon in a written contract, it may still need to be approved by the courts even after the marriage has been terminated.
Child custody and visitation are two other important areas of family law, which face different issues. Custody can be awarded to both parents or to one parent, or the court can allocate joint custody. Visitation rights are determined by the state, with joint custody and visitation being granted to both parents if both are fit enough to care for their children. Depending on the state, joint custody can also be awarded to people other than the natural parents of the child, such as stepparents or step-parents.
Another area of family law that many people would not think of is domestic partnerships. Domestic partnerships refer to any number of things that a married couple might engage in together, including sexual relationships and the raising of children. Partners in a domestic partnership are considered to be related to each other by blood, adoption, or marriage, whichever came first, and are recognized as married by the civil law in their state. Even if the partners do not have a domestic partnership agreement, family law can still consider them married under certain circumstances, including when one party has taken steps to marry someone else outside of their state, or when one party has a plan to start a domestic partnership after getting married.
Child support is another area of family law which affects many innocent people who are never able to receive it. For example, in California, child support is determined by the state. However, non-custodial parents may be able to petition for adjustments to their child support payments based on their income, financial circumstances, and other factors. Similarly, criminal law makes adjustments to child support payments to ensure that it is fair to the children or to the community. A judge will consider the needs of each family member and decide just how much should be paid.
While many legal practices have traditionally handled family relationships in the same way, family law has changed quite a bit in recent years. Some states have made it easier for couples to work on legal matters together; others have become more permissive in family relationships. Also, there are some family relationships that are considered much more complex than others. Divorce is one such example. A divorce lawyer may well have much more expertise in divorce proceedings than a family relationship counselor.