Do I Need A Lawyer For My Family Law Issue?
What is Family Law?
Family law is a legal practice area that focuses on issues involving family relationships such as marriage, adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. Attorneys practicing family law can represent clients in family court proceedings or in related negotiations. They 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. The matter of family encompasses so many life aspects. Lawyers in the field, therefore, help all kinds of people facing all kinds of sensitive issues that many people wouldn’t immediately assume go under the family law umbrella.
Related Practice Areas
Family law often intersects with a wide range of other legal practice areas. For example, instances of domestic violence and child abuse typically involve criminal investigations (and may result in arrests and charges). Along with that process, family courts are tasked with determining how to best protect the victims and ensure a relatively safe environment for those involved.
While some individuals are able to reach an amicable decision with another individual in a family law dispute and maintain a healthy relationship, the majority of individuals who go through these types of disputes can benefit from the assistance of having a lawyer.
Family law disputes are some of the most contentious cases because the stakes are so high when children or property rights are involved. Here are a few indicators to help you see when you need a lawyer for your case.
Domestic Violence Is Involved
If there has been a history of domestic violence, you are not on an even playing field with the other party.
You may enter into decisions because you fear the repercussions of not agreeing with your spouse or former partner. Hiring a lawyer can help prevent you from being directly involved in some interactions, such as by having a lawyer voice your preferences and point of view without having to be there personally in front of your abuser.
A family lawyer can help take the steps necessary to protect the parent and child in this type of situation. He or she may also be able to advise you about how you can access the financial resources that you need to help make it through the dispute.
You Don’t Agree
If you are going through divorce, there are several key aspects that you must agree on in order for your divorce to be considered “uncontested.” For example, you must be able to reach an agreement about how to dispose of your marital property. Additionally, you must be able to agree on terms regarding your children, such as custody, parenting plans, visitation and child support. If spousal income will be awarded, this issue should also be hammered out.
Even if you do not initially agree on these terms, you may be able to seek the assistance of a neutral third party mediator to reach a decision regarding these matters. If you do reach an agreement on these key issues, you may still want to have an attorney review the settlement and inform you of any potential consequences of your agreement. Otherwise, if you do not agree on these issues, you may need the assistance of a family law attorney to represent your side in the dispute.
You Need Assistance in Collecting Evidence
If you need evidence in your family law case, you may need the assistance of an attorney. You may need evidence in a variety of family law cases. For example, you may need evidence to prove that a spouse is having an affair in order to get more favorable terms under your prenuptial agreement. You may need evidence in a child custody case to prove that you are the parent that is fit to raise the children.
A lawyer may be able to acquire the evidence that you need in your case by conducting an investigation, requesting documents from the other side and taking depositions of people involved with your case.
To Help In The Filing Of Paperwork
Whatever family case you’re facing, a good family lawyer can assist you in properly filing paperwork. When you don’t have any legal experience, you might be overwhelmed by all the necessary documents that you should draft and file correctly. Not only might that, but the improper filing of these documents end up being excluded by the judge in your case. An example of this is when you file for divorce against your estranged spouse, in which several documents are needed for the proceeding. However, by seeking legal help from a family lawyer, you can have peace of mind knowing that all the required paperwork will be appropriately done while meeting the time limits.
To Prepare Your Family’s Financial Future
Another important reason you might need a lawyer is for the preparation of your family’s financial future.
Typically, no one knows what the future holds for you and your loved ones. Thus, whether you need help with pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, wills, and other legal services, you should hire a good family law attorney to have all these documents prepared whenever you need them. They’ll assess your needs and recommend the best strategies that might help prepare your family’s financial future. Also, as their client, they’ll have your family’s best interests in mind so you can rest knowing that everything they do is for your benefit and that of your family.
You Can Meet the Legal Standard
Each state provides for a specific legal standard that must be met in each type of case. For example, many states use the “best interest of the child” standard in determining to whom to award child custody. Courts may evaluate which parent is more likely to support the educational and religious growth of the children, which parent is better equipped financially to raise the children, which parent is more likely to encourage a positive relationship between the other parent and the children and which parent is more likely to abstain from dangerous or unethical behaviors such as the consumption of drugs and alcohol.
Once child custody is awarded, the standard in many states to change this award is when a material change in circumstance occurs. This means that some type of event or set of circumstances must have arisen that provides a basis for the court to amend a previous order.
You Want to Even the Playing Field
If the other party has retained a lawyer, it may be advisable for you to retain an attorney of your own. The law is quite complex and not filing the proper paperwork or not meeting deadlines in your case can have a serious or even permanent effect on your case. Additionally, you do not want to have to take the word of an attorney who is representing the legal interests of your adversary.
Types of Cases
Learn about the different types of cases heard at family court, and how they are different from cases heard in general civil or criminal court.
Criminal cases involve enforcing public codes of behavior, which are codified in the laws of the state. In criminal cases, the government prosecutes individuals for violating those laws (in other words, for allegedly committing a crime). Punishment in criminal cases can include fines, community service, probation, or prison.
Civil cases involve conflicts between people or institutions such as businesses, typically over money. Civil cases include lawsuits for money, landlord/tenant matters, breach of contract claims, and cases where one person is trying to make someone else do something (for example, sell some property) or stop doing something (for example, stop a foreclosure).
Family cases are a type of civil case, but they generally involve issues between or concerning spouses, parents, and children. Family courts handle a wide variety of cases involving domestic matters. The most common issues handled at family court include:
Marriage Dissolution. When someone wants to end a marriage, they can file a case at family court to ask for a court order ending the marriage. Marriages can be terminated through divorce or annulment cases. The court can also grant a separation, where the court issues orders regarding property, alimony, and child custody, but the parties remain legally married.
Paternity and Child Custody. When a man needs to be declared the father of a child, either parent can file a case asking the family court to determine paternity. This permanently establishes the father of the child. Unmarried parents can also ask the court to order legal custody, physical custody, visitation schedules, and child support.
Guardianship. Guardianship involves determining who will be responsible for the medical, personal, and financial decisions over a child or an adult who cannot care for themselves.
Termination of Parental Rights and Adoptions. If there are serious reasons why a parent should no longer have a parental relationship with a child (such as abandonment, neglect, abuse, etc.), the family court may terminate that parent’s rights. If someone else wants to become a child’s legal parent, the family court can grant an adoption where the parent-child relationship is legally created.
Juvenile Matters. Family court oversees all matters where there are allegations of child abuse, child neglect, or where minors are accused of participating in illegal behavior. These matters are largely handled by the District Attorney Juvenile Division. The family court can also approve work permits for minors under the age of 14.
Emancipation and Approval of Underage Marriages. Those under the age of 18 who wish to marry or want to be “emancipated” (meaning, being legally free from the control of their parents) can petition the family court for approval. Dealing with family issues can be an overwhelming experience. This is especially true if they involve some legalities that make these problems more complicated to resolve. Hence, depending on your family dynamics, having a good family lawyer will make a lot of sense for you and your family. Primarily, a family lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in handling cases related to family matters.
Questions To Ask Your Family Lawyer
The relationship you strike with your family lawyer centers on compatibility: you need to ensure that your working style and goals align.
Can You Help Me Achieve My Goals?
We all do our best work when we believe in what we’re working to accomplish. Before meeting with a family lawyer, consider what’s important to you and to your children.
• What are your most pressing concerns?
• What are you most worried about?
• What are your long-term goals?
• What challenges or obstacles prevent you from resolving issues with your spouse/partner?
• How can you minimize these barriers?
The family issues you’re facing are deeply personal. Needing help with family law can be stressful.
What’s Your Experience?
It’s important that your family lawyer have the knowledge and experience in family law to streamline your case. An inexperienced lawyer, or a lawyer whose practice doesn’t focus on family law, may not fully understand the complexities of your issue. When meeting with a family lawyer, ask these questions about his or her experience.
• Do you specialize in family law?
• How long have you practiced family law?
• What types of cases do you take on?
• What types of cases most ignite your passion?
• What percentage of your cases have settled out of court?
• What percentage have gone to trial?
• Do you view my case as unique?
• How many cases like mine have you handled?
• What expertise can you bring to my case?
These questions can help you determine not only the number of cases a family lawyer has handled, but also how many have centered on circumstances similar to yours. A lawyer may have handled dozens of cases but only dealt with a handful involving complex spousal issues.
What’s The Best Approach For Me?
When meet your family lawyer for the first time, you should thoroughly explain your options, laying out the pros and cons of each. They will let you know whether your case can be resolved by agreement, while also providing an overview of mediation, litigation and collaborative family law.
Who Will Be My Primary Point Of Contact?
It may take time between your contacting a lawyer and receiving a response. For convenience, you may expect a reply within 24 hours. Be sure to clarify your lawyer’s policies.
• How long does it take you to respond to phone calls and emails?
• Will I have direct contact with you after our initial consultation?
• Will you be able to give me real-time advice when issues arise?
• How do you prefer to communicate with your clients? (i.e., phone or email)
• How often do you communicate with your clients? (i.e., daily, weekly, as needed)
• Who handles accounts payable and accounts receivable in your firm?
• Who prepares correspondence, pleadings and trail notebooks?
How Much Will This Cost?
Unexpected legal bills can be incredibly frustrating. They can also erode trust in your relationship with your lawyer. When you first meet with them, they’ll discuss their need for a retainer and expectations around budgets for legal fees. In most matters, they can work based on regular hourly billing, quoted billing caps or fixed legal fees. They’ll work to find a pricing model that works for you.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506