Family laws are laws that cover issues related to family relationships. The most common areas of family law include:
- Child custody; and
- Child support.
There are many other subcategories of law that fall under the family law umbrella. These include paternity, adoption, emancipation, and other matters.
There are some family law attorneys who specialize in a particular area of family law. Most, however, practice across the subcategories. For example, an attorney may specialize in adoption cases and another may practice handling cases mostly involving child support issues. Many family law attorneys will have experience in a wide range of matters associated with family relationships.
Legal Issues Related to Marriage: Prenuptial Agreements, Divorce, and Alimony
Although the idea of marriage can be entered into with great intentions, it may result in a complicated situation for many individuals, sometimes even before it begins. There are many aspects of family law that apply to marriage. The different aspects of family law will be discussed below.
One of these is a prenuptial agreement. This is a contract that is entered into by the parties prior to a marriage. It typically lists each individual’s assets and the rights of the parties in the event the marriage fails. They are sometimes viewed as controversial. These agreements have pros and cons. A family law attorney will be able to provide advice for an individual’s particular situation.
In some cases, following a marriage, a couple will seek a legal separation. This does not terminate the marriage as a divorce does, but it does define the legal rights and obligations of each party.
An annulment is a legal decree that treats a marriage as though it never occurred. It declares the marriage null and void. The grounds for receiving an annulment are limited, and include:
- Intoxication during the onset of marriage;
- Legal age issues, and
- Issues relating to force, fraud, physical and/or mental incapacity.
There are many other legal issues that may arise during a divorce, especially if there are children born of the marriage. Child custody and child support are common topics of contention in divorce proceedings. Regardless of any issues arising from the divorce, a court will always use the child’s best interest standard as a standard by which to decide issues regarding children.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that is frequently associated with family law cases. Although many marriages that end in a divorce involve domestic violence, there are other relationships in which an individual may experience domestic violence. These may include dating relationships, parent and child relationships, and relationships with eldery family members.
Legal Issues Related to Children: Child Custody & Visitation, Adoption, and Child Abuse
Legal issues related to children often take a serious toll on all parties involved, no matter the type of case. Child custody and child support arrangements are best made by individuals who are willing to cooperate and communicate. These arrangements, however, do not always go as planned. A skilled family law attorney can often negotiate between the parents and help them come to a reasonable agreement to present to the court.
In situations of adoption and issues that involve stepparents and/or individuals with no biological relation to a child, the legal process can be more complicated. The termination of a biological parent’s rights and adoption often requires an investigation, interviews with the child and family members, and several court hearings. Trying to go through this process without the assistance of an attorney is not advised.
Child abuse is another legal issue that involves children. Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect occurs far too often. These crimes have widespread consequences. Child abuse has implications in family law as well as in criminal law. The mistreatment and/or neglect of a child is serious, and all states have laws and agencies to protect the welfare of children. Child protective services (CPS) agencies investigate cases of abuse and/or neglect. They also place children in adoption and/or foster care programs, if necessary.
Other Family Law Issues: Power of Attorney, Inheritance, and Changing Your Name
In addition to the common marriage and child legal issues, family law includes other matters such as power of attorney and estate matters, among other legal specialties. After seeking the advice of an attorney, an individual may desire to assign a power of attorney directive to someone they trust who can make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to speak for themselves.
There are two main types of power of attorney, one for medical decisions and one for financial decisions. These can be assigned to the same individual or different ones, if necessary.
Inheritance laws outline what individuals are entitled to receive assets and/or property from a deceased individual. States vary on how inheritance is treated. In cases of divorce, it may become complicated.
Another common family law issue is that of changing an individual’s name. A name change is typically a simple process but may vary according to the laws of an individual’s state. A name change following a marriage may not require a court order; however, creating a new name or utilizing a less-traditional marriage approach may require an individual to petition a court for a name change.
There are some instances where a court order will likely be required to change an individual’s name. This includes changing a government-issued identification, passport, and/or social security card. In these cases, it is very important to consult an attorney.
An experienced attorney can prove invaluable in any family law issue. It may even be helpful to consult with an attorney before an issue arises to attempt to avoid a dispute.
Are There Special Family Laws to Consider in Orange, California?
Yes, there are special family laws to consider in Orange, California. California is a community property state. This means that the law presumes that property acquired during a marriage is community property. Community property includes property and money that is acquired by a couple during a marriage and is jointly owned.
Each spouse has equal access to and an equal interest in community property. When a couple gets divorced, the community property is divided equally.
Community property includes:
- Real property, such as land and/or a house;
- Personal property, such as furniture, artwork, and/or antiques;
- Intangible assets, such as bonds, mutual funds, and/or stocks.
Community property also includes debts of the marriage, such as:
- Mortgages; and/or
There are only nine community property states in the United States, including:
- New Mexico;
- Washington; and
There are, however, some exceptions to the presumption of community property. In other words, under certain circumstances, as separate property of just one spouse. The community property presumption does not apply to property that:
- Is given to one spouse as a gift;
- Is received by one spouse through a will or through a trust fund;
- Is received by one spouse as an inheritance;
- Is acquired by a spouse prior to the marriage;
- Is acquired by one spouse with just that spouse’s money; and/or
- Is acquired when the couple was separated and/or living apart.
In general, spouses are regarded by the law as living separate and apart when one spouse clearly informs the other that they do not wish for the marriage to continue. To be considered living separate and apart, the spouses must usually physically reside in different locations.
Do I Need a California Lawyer for My Family Law Issue?
Yes, it is essential to have the help of an experienced California family law attorney for any family law issues you have. An attorney can provide advice prior to a marriage, during a marriage, and in the event a marriage is ending. A lawyer will ensure your rights are protected, no matter what family law issue you are facing. Your lawyer will also represent you during any court appearances, if necessary.