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What Is Family Law?

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What Is Family Law?

Family law encompasses a broad range of legal topics involving marriage and children. Common family law subjects include divorce or annulment, child custody and visitation rights, child support payments, and spousal support/alimony. Family law specifically deals with children in regards to adoption, guardianship, state child protection, and domestic violence.

What's the difference between Divorce and Annulment?

Both divorce and annulment are court procedures that dissolve a marriage. However, while a divorce simply ends the marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as though it never happened.

Read more about it here: Annulment Compared with Divorce

How Are Child Custody and Visitation Established? 

Child custody issues often arise when a couple goes through a divorce. If the couple can come to an agreement on child custody and visitation on their own, the court will usually honor this agreement. However, if the couple cannot reach an agreement, the court will issue a child custody plan based upon "the best interests of the child” legal standard. The court will use several factors (e.g. parent’s ability to provide, health of the parents, preference of the child, etc.) to determine what child placement situation is best for the child.

What Is Child Support?

"Child support" is a series of court ordered payments by a noncustodial parent to the individual with primary custody of the child. Child support is intended to provide for the child’s basic necessities and usually covers:

  • Food, shelter, and clothing
  • Health and medical care
  • Educational expenditures

Read more about it here: What is Child Support

What Is Spousal Support/Alimony?

Spousal support (also known as alimony) represents regular payments made from one spouse to the other during a separation or after a divorce. The purpose of spousal support is to recognize the recipient spouse's contribution to the marriage and to assist that spouse to achieve financial independence after the marriage ends. The amount of spousal support assigned will depend on the specific state but generally is greater the longer the duration of the marriage.

What Is Family Law Mediation?

Family law mediation, or family mediation, is a method used to resolve family disputes. In family mediation, a neutral, third party mediator helps the two parties smooth out their differences and reach agreements on various points of contention. While family mediation can save the parties time and costs associated with trial, the decisions reached may not be legally binding, as the process is somewhat informal.

It is common for a judge to encourage parents/couples to seek mediation instead of going straight into litigation. Due the lower cost, saving time, and less stress on any children involved, it is always a good idea to consider family mediation as a first step.

Read more about it here: Family Mediation

Do I Need a Family Attorney?

Family law issues can be some of the most contentious legal disputes. In addition, the Court process and legal provisions regarding any family law matter can often be very confusing. Consulting an experienced family law lawyer can help you understand your rights and to protect your interests.

Photo of page author John Kirby

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-26-2018 11:31 PM PDT

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