Family Law Serivces
Family law is the area of law that deals with marriage and divorce, custody, paternity, spousal and child support, along with the many issues that come up when you get married, have children, and perhaps get divorced. Family law also covers adoptions, guardianship, domestic violence, and grandparents’ rights.
Marital agreements are the contracts you and your spouse can enter into before your marriage (“premarital agreement”), during your marriage (“postnuptial agreement”), and if you decide to end your marriage (“separation or settlement agreement”).
If you and your spouse decide not to stay together, you have several options. Most people seek a divorce, which is a legal action where you seek to have your marriage dissolved. There is also a third option, called a legal separation, which is a legal action where you seek a court ruling that you and your spouse are going to live separately and apart from one another without actually getting divorced.
A decision to end your marriage or separate from your spouse creates many other decisions that you and your spouse must make. First, you need to figure out your property rights. You and your spouse may have owned property when you got married, and you may have obtained property while you were married. This property needs to be divided up when you decide to end your marriage.
Support After the Divorce
Depending on whether you or your spouse is able to financially take care of yourself, your divorce/separation case may involve maintenance. This is sometimes called “alimony” or “spousal support.” Maintenance can be a temporary payment during the annulment or divorce lawsuit, a payment for a designated period of time or a permanent payment. There is a statutory formula for temporary maintenance that the court is required to apply unless it determines it to be inappropriate. However there is no formula for periodic or permanent maintenance and if the parties are unable to agree, it is up to the court to determine what is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of your marriage.
Sometimes your circumstances or those of your spouse may change after the court orders maintenance, and you or your spouse may be able to get the court to change the award. This is called a modification. Under certain circumstances, the court may also order one spouse to pay the attorney’s fees of the other spouse, particularly if there is a difference in the income and assets of the parties
Child Custody and Visitation
If you and your spouse have minor children, then your divorce/separation will involve other additional issues related to the children, such as custody, visitation, and child support. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on these issues, the court will decide how much time the child or children will spend living with each parent, which is called child custody/visitation. The court will also determine if the parent who has the child/children the majority of the time should receive money from the other parent in order to help care for the child/children. This is called child support. These issues can also arise when unmarried people have children together. However, if there is a denial of being the father, a paternity proceeding is required. In such case, the court generally requires DNA testing which determines the probability of paternity of the accused father.