Family law is a legal area dealing with, as the term suggests, familial relationships. Typically these involve divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, and modifications of previous judgments pertaining to these issues. With the relatively recent inclusion of same-sex marriage into the law, the family law continues to be an increasingly evolving area. Most family lawyers work with divorces and its associated matters, though it can include issues with other reproductive rights. The following are various issues that arise in family law:
Although sometimes unavoidable, the hope in any divorce is that the parties will be able to come to a mutual agreement, short of having to go to trial. In its simplest form, divorce involves splitting marital assets, calculating support payments like alimony if needed, and planning issues around children such as physical and legal custody, parenting plans (often called visitation), medical and educational needs, and child support.
Parenting Plans & Child Support
Court judgments that designate a specific amount of support or visitation hours, or any other judgment dealing with children, are modifiable upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. A change in circumstances could be that one parent or the other obtained a new job or lost a previous job, maybe they had to move away (or moved closer as the case may be), or even if the age of the child since the date of the judgment has forced a change. Every situation is unique, and consulting with a family law attorney could help you to determine if your judgment can be modified based on your change in circumstances.
Mothers that have children with an absent father have the ability to file a complaint with the Probate and Family Court in order to get support for their child from the biological father. If the father is not listed as the father on the birth certificate, paternity will need to be established. This can be ordered by the court. Fathers that file cases typically do so in order to have a relationship with their child. Regardless of who files the case, paternity will typically be determined by completing a DNA test.
In all of my family law consultations, I like to point out the benefits of mediation. In a mediation, a neutral person attempts to help the parties come to an amicable resolution of the issues. In mediation, the most significant benefit to the parties is the cost. The average mediation in our office costs less than half of what the parties would typically spend on an initial retainer to their attorneys. In addition, a mediated divorce (or modification as the case may be) tends to be a lot less contentious. The parties are also in control of what they want to do and with what they want to get out of the divorce. They aren’t leaving everything up to chance by letting someone in a black robe tell them what is best for them, their children, etc. I have noticed that parties who mediate tend to work better with each other to abide by both the stated terms and the spirit of the agreement when it is completed. Mediation is not appropriate in all cases, and if there is excessive animosity, resentment, or vindictiveness, it could negate the purposes of the mediation. Consulting with a mediator will help you to determine if mediation is appropriate in your case.
All of these issues are hard to deal with given the sensitive nature inherent in any of them. Emotions run high and tension can be incredibly prevalent throughout the processes. Lawyers specializing in family and divorce law serve as a knowledgeable and observant third party that can help you avoid making a bad decision with regards to your own, or your children's, well being.
In the Law Office of Stark & Heiner, we believe the only person who truly has rights is the person who knows what those rights are. Should you find yourself going through a divorce, custody, or support issue, or should need to get a modification of a previous judgment, it is always a good idea to educate yourself with the process by consulting an attorney.