What is Family Law?
Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships, such as adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Attorneys practicing family law can represent clients in family court proceedings or in related negotiations and can also draft important legal documents such as court petitions or property agreements. Some family law attorneys even specialize in adoption, paternity, emancipation, or other matters not usually related to divorce.
States have the right to determine “reasonable formal requirements” for marriage, including age and legal capacity, as well as the rules and procedures for divorce and other family law matters. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, some states restricted marriage (and divorce) to opposite-sex couples only.
Helpful Terms to Know
- Emancipation: A court process through which a minor becomes self-supporting, assumes adult responsibility for his or her welfare, and is no longer under the care of his or her parents.
- Marital Property: Property acquired by either spouse during the course of a marriage that is subject to division upon divorce.
- Alimony: An allowance made to one spouse by the other for support during or after a legal separation or divorce.
- Paternity: Origin or descent from a father (to establish paternity is to confirm the identity of a child’s biological father).
- Prenuptial Agreement: An agreement made between a man and a woman before marrying in which they give up future rights to each other’s property in the event of a divorce or death.
Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney
Most family lawyers represent clients in divorce proceedings and other matters related to divorce. But family law is a relatively broad practice area, including such issues as foster care and reproductive rights. Since family law matters hit so close to home, having a trusted legal professional by your side can help you ensure your loved ones are properly represented and protected during any legal process.
The most common reasons to hire a family law attorney include:
- Divorce: Each partner hires his or her own attorney, who will help devise a settlement plan in order to avoid a trial. Divorce attorneys typically are skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).
- Child Custody / Child Support: Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.
- Paternity: In most cases, paternity cases are filed by the mother in an effort to secure child support payments from an absent father. But sometimes biological fathers file for paternity in order to have a relationship with their child. Paternity typically is determined through DNA testing.
- Adoption / Foster Care: Adoption is a complex process that differs according to the type of adoption, where the child is from, variances in state laws, and other factors. Therefore, it’s important to consult with a family law attorney. Foster parents sometimes adopt their foster children, but the foster process does not necessarily require legal representation.
5 Things a Family Lawyer Can Do For You
Family lawyers are legal professionals that specialize in matters to do with family law. They handle legal issues that are concerned with members of the family. Such legal issues include divorce, child custody, and guardianship among others. Family lawyers can act as mediators when family disagreements develop. They can also represent litigants in family conflicts that end up courts. Below are some of the things that family lawyers can do.
- Handling Divorce Issues
Undergoing a divorce is probably one of the most draining experiences that a family can face. Emotions may set in and make it impossible for a couple to settle it calmly. In such a case, a family law attorney can act as a mediator, and assist them to approach the issue rationally and within the law. In other words, a competent family law attorney can assist couples in the process of divorcing to settle the matter fairly without necessarily going to court. Consult Austin Lawyer Referral Service to refer you to a knowledgeable family lawyer.
- Handling Estates and Wills
A will is a legal document through which people state how they would wish their property to be managed when they die. Family law attorneys are responsible for assisting people in drafting these documents. They also have what it takes to ensure that an estate is administered as stated by a deceased via the will.
- Handling Child Custody Agreements
When a couple separates, one of the most difficult issues to handle has to be what happens to the children. Couples need to agree on how to take care of the children they have had together in the new arrangement. Child custody is defined by an agreement in which both parents have to live with the terms therein. A competent family lawyer can help parents that are parting ways to draft such an agreement. A family law attorney can also help parents in amending child custody agreements if need be.
- Handling Prenuptial Agreements
A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed by a couple prior to a marriage or a civil union. Although the content of such a contract may vary from one case to another, its main aim is to spell out the provisions of spousal support and division of the property in the event of a breakup or a divorce. A family lawyer can assist a couple in drafting a prenuptial agreement and handling any matters that may arise from the contract according to the law.
- Represent Litigants in Court
Although family attorneys can help people to settle family disputes outside court, some of these matters still end up in the courts. In such a case, family lawyers are best suited to help litigants get justice. These attorneys handle such cases almost every other day, and therefore, they have the necessary legal knowledge and practical experience to help litigants to navigate the complex jungles of the family law and ensure that justice is served accordingly.
Overall, it is apparent that the importance of family law attorneys cannot be overemphasized. They help members of families to rationally handle family disputes that would otherwise be crowded by emotions. These lawyers have knowledge and experience to help people settle issues relating to divorce, child custody, prenuptial agreement and estate administration among other legal issues affecting families. Thus, if you are having a family legal matter that needs a rational approach, contact Austin Lawyer Referral Service for a qualified family law attorney.
4 Reasons Why You Might Need a Family Lawyer
Deciding whether or not you need a family law attorney in Austin can be a difficult decision. Depending on your family dynamics, a family law attorney might be a great idea. Here are 4 reasons why you might need a family lawyer:
- Problems with Divorce
Navigating divorce can be a very tricky topic. There are many laws surrounding divorce and many moving parts in a divorce proceeding. From making decisions about assets, alimony or child support, a family law attorney can be very beneficial to help ensure that these proceedings go according to plan and needs. A family lawyer can make sure your rights are protected and you get everything you are entitled to.
- Adoption Issues
We are aware that adopting a child is a major step for your family. We are here to help with all the details and legal processes of your state. You want to make sure that you do the adoption process correctly and that there are no delays keeping you from gaining the newest member of your family.
- Settling Child Custody
Child custody is an often difficult and contentious topic. We know how messy child custody can be. Having a good family lawyer is necessary to ensure a smooth child custody transition. If there are any issues in your child custody battle, then we know how to help solve this issue. A great lawyer referral service of Central Texas can point you in the right direction to find a competent family lawyer to settle even the messiest of child custody battles.
We are aware of what guardianship means for your family. Choosing to have a guardian for a family member can be a lengthy and confusing process. Without a family lawyer, we know you might get lost in the sea of paperwork a guardianship requires. To make sure that guardianship is done correctly, a family lawyer is an excellent idea.
How to Find Legal Help When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
Cheap and free alternatives exist, but finding them can be a trial.
USUALLY WHEN YOU HIRE an attorney, it’s to avoid being drained financially by an ex-spouse, former business partner or adversary who wants to sue you. But what do you do when you need a lawyer to protect your assets and paying for one is out of the question? In a criminal proceeding, if you can’t afford legal assistance, a court will appoint an attorney for you. In a civil case, generally described as a dispute between two private parties, to get legal representation, you have to get creative.
Here’s how to find legal help if you can’t afford a lawyer:
- Look to legal aid societies.
- Visit a law school.
- Contact your county or state bar association.
- Go to small claims court.
- Try pricing attorneys.
- Represent yourself in court.
Depending on your situation, you can employ a variety of strategies to get free or cheap legal assistance.
8 Things You Should Never Say to a Judge While in Court
There are many, many times in life when it’s just best to not speak up — you just might say something that’s a real deal breaker. For example, if you get stopped by a cop? Zip it. And if you’re appearing in court before a judge? Zip it. At least until he asks you something. Judges can be very strict about their courtroom rules and you certainly don’t want to say something that would affect your outcome.
- Anything that sounds memorized
According to court reporting company Cook & Wiley, it’s crucial that you speak to the judge in your own words — never, ever deliver a planned speech. Should you memorize things it might make some of your testimony sound rehearsed, and in turn, unconvincing. Here are a few things you can do so your answers don’t sound like you’ve been coached:
- Speak in your own words.
- Before the trial, think about the matter you’ll be answering questions about so you have at least an idea of what you want to say.
- Jog your memory by picturing relevant aspects of the case, such as places, things, and people.
- Anything angry
Judges don’t like when you get angry in their courtrooms — it makes you see less objective and more like you’re exaggerating. Even if you feel you’ve been wronged, says Cook & Wiley, keep your temper in check and be courteous. Avoid being sarcastic, too, because that can come off as angry — and the judge won’t like it, either.
- ‘They didn’t tell me … ’
If you come to court unprepared, never tell a judge that the court staff didn’t tell you to bring a document or form with you on your court date, according to FindLaw. Judges see defendants come to court unprepared quite often, and it rightfully makes them mad. Don’t make excuses to the judge and blame your issue on someone else. Instead, be contrite and apologize sincerely to the judge.
- Any expletives
Cursing and screaming at a judge might just get you thrown in jail for contempt, according to FindLaw. So, don’t curse in the courtroom. Judges don’t appreciate it and it’s disrespectful for all concerned. Like your temper, keep your bad language under wraps and you’ll be OK.
- Any of these specific words
There are certain words you should never say to a judge, according to A2L Consulting. If you incorporate these words into your courtroom vocabulary, you will not sound approachable or trustworthy. Because you want people — particularly the judge — to relate to you in the courtroom, just speak like you would to your friends. Here are the words you should never throw at a judge:
- But for
- Assuming arguendo
- Anything that’s an exaggeration
Don’t make generalized statements to a judge — ever, says Cook & Wiley. You will often have to correct it. Even if you need a few seconds to think about your answer, it’s important to respond accurately and carefully. It’s also key to avoid exaggerating. Judges have a keen sense of when people do it — and they don’t like it. Obviously, you should never lie to a judge, either. That is called perjury, and it’s a crime for which you will be punished if you are caught.
- Anything you can’t amend
Making definitive statements about what you recall can get you in trouble, according to Cook & Wiley. Unless you are absolutely certain about something, keep a lid on it. Never saying something such as, “That’s all that was said,” or “Nothing else happened.”
Instead, try something along the lines of, “That’s all I recall” or “That’s all I remember happening.” This way, if you remember more details after you think about it you can amend your statement.
- Any volunteered information
When you get in front of a judge, do yourself a favor: Answer only the questions he asks you. Never volunteer information the judge doesn’t ask you for, warns Cook & Wiley. Give clear, short answers to questions — the judge couldn’t care less about your observations. Make sure you state only your own opinions, too; don’t give the judge information that someone told you unless he specifically asks you for it.