It is important to prepare for a consultation with a family law attorney in order to make the most out of the time with the attorney. Family law attorneys handle many issues including:
- Child custody and visitation;
- Child support;
- Separation; and
- Spousal support, or alimony.
Family law includes the rules, regulations, and court procedures involving the family unit. It is common for family law cases to be difficult, personal, and emotional. A family law attorney will help a client prepare for any type of case involving the family unit.
The types of preparations that will be required will depend on the type of case in which an individual is involved. No matter what type of case it is, an individual will need to prepare prior to the consultation.
An adoption can be a lengthy process. Every adoption is different as are the laws in every state. Every state, however, requires a home study process which includes interviews and home visits. Once an individual is approved to adopt, they must find a child and/or a birth mother who is willing to let her child be adopted. All adoptions must be approved by a court to be legal and final. A family law attorney can help with every step of the adoption process.
Child custody and visitation issues often arise in separation and/or divorce cases. These types of cases can be very contentious, especially if there is an already contentious divorce. Custody can be awarded to one parent or it can be shared. A court can also approve a visitation schedule if agreed to by the parents. If the parents cannot agree, the court will make the decision using the child’s best interest standard. A family law attorney can help parties negotiate any issues related to child custody and/or visitation.
Family Law Issues
Child support is financial support provided by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. A child support agreement can be entered into voluntarily by the parties or can be court-ordered. Child support is intended for the support and care of the child and/or children. A family law attorney can assist an individual in obtaining child support and/or ensure the amount they are required to pay is fair.
Guardianship is when an individual makes decisions for a child or another individual who is incapacitated and is unable to make decisions for themselves, known as a ward. A court prefers to appoint a guardian who has ties to the ward because great responsibility is involved. A family law attorney can assist an individual who wishes to become a guardian and/or protect the rights of a ward.
Paternity refers to a legal process where the biological father of a child is determined. If a couple is married, paternity is usually determined when the father signs the birth certificate. If a baby is born to an unwed mother, a court order may be required to establish paternity. An unwed father can sign an acknowledgment of paternity which will establish his parental rights and requirement to pay child support. A family lawyer can help establish paternity and ensure both parents’ rights are protected.
A separation occurs when a couple decides to live apart, but it is not the same as divorce. Similar to divorce, however, a separated couple can request the court to divide debts and/or assets, and resolve issues regarding custody, child support, and/or alimony. Although a separation can be a step towards divorce, it does not always mean a divorce is imminent. A family law attorney can help with any separation issues an individual may have.
A divorce is the legal end of a marriage. Laws regarding divorce vary by state but all divorces are finalized by a court. Divorces can be a straight forward agreement or a complex case involving children. A family law attorney can help an individual with any type of divorce issue and ensure their rights are protected.
Alimony, also called spousal support, is financial assistance provided to a spouse so that they can maintain their standard of living they were accustomed to prior to the divorce. Alimony can be temporary or permanent, depending on the case. A family law attorney can determine if an individual is eligible for alimony, the local laws, and ensure the rights of all parties are protected.
What Documentation and Questions Should I Gather Before Meeting with a Family Lawyer?
The types of documents that an individual should gather prior to a meeting with a family lawyer will vary depending on the type of case. In most cases, an individual will need to bring any personal information, including:
- Birth certificates;
- Bank statements;
- Mortgage information;
- Employment information;
- Tax returns; and/or
- Any other information requested by the attorney.
It may be helpful to reach out to the attorney prior to the consultation and ask what type of information may be needed. Expect to provide further documentation after the consultation, if necessary.
It is essential for an individual to compile a list of questions they may have for their family lawyer prior to a consultation. This will ensure the individual’s concerns are addressed and discussed.
What Makes a Family Law Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?
A strong family law case begins with a family law attorney. An attorney will know the local laws and how to best present a convincing case to a court. Many family law issues require a showing to the court of an individual’s fitness to raise a child. This can include a stable home, a stable financial situation, and a safe environment.
Some types of cases will require an in-depth analysis of all aspects of an individual’s life. This is not done because an attorney wants to be nosey; it is often required to address all aspects of a case.
What are Some Dos and Don’ts for Family Law Cases?
Some “do’s” for family law cases include:
- Do: Hire an attorney. Family law issues can be extremely difficult and emotional. It is essential to protect your rights in any family law matter.
- Do: Be honest with your attorney and provide all requested information. Sometimes, it can feel like you must turn over your entire life, but this is only so your attorney can be prepared for any issues in your case.
- Do: Be respectful to all parties in court. It may be emotionally difficult for all parties involved in family law issues.
Some “don’ts” for family law cases include:
- Don’t: Be difficult just for the sake of punishing another party. This will only make the process more challenging for all involved.
- Don’t: Tell a lie in an attempt to get what you want. This may lead to negative legal consequences.
- Don’t: Get discouraged. These cases can be lengthy and have emotional ups and downs. Stay focused on the goal.
When Do I Absolutely Need an Attorney for Family Law Issues?
It is essential to have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney for any family law issues you may have. A family lawyer will be familiar with the laws and requirements for your case in your area.
An attorney will be able to help you with any paperwork that is required, and documents that must be filed with a court, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.