Divorce and all legal issues associated with this pivotal life event can be resolved through negotiation, mediation and dynamic representation in trial. Legal elements connected to divorce include custody, visitation and asset and property division. 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.
The following is a primer on family law and what it entails.
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.
The law relating to family disputes and obligations has grown dramatically since the 1970s, as legislators and judges have reexamined and redefined legal relationships surrounding Divorce, Child Custody, and Child Support. Family law has become entwined with national debates over the structure of the family, gender bias, and morality. Despite many changes made by state and federal legislators, family law remains a contentious area of U.S. law, generating strong emotions from those who have had to enter the legal process. Divorce law has also changed over time. In colonial America, divorce was extremely rare. This was partly because obtaining a divorce decree required legislative action, a process that was time-consuming and costly. Massachusetts in 1780 was the first state to allow judicial divorce. By 1900, every state except South Carolina provided for judicial divorce. Even with availability, divorce remained a highly conflicted area of law.
Divorce In Utah
Beginning in the 1960s, advocates of divorce reform called for the legal recognition of no-fault divorce. Under this concept, a divorce may be granted on grounds such as incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship. The court examines the condition of the marriage rather than the question of whether either party is at fault. This type of proceeding eliminates the need for one party to accuse the other of a traditional ground for divorce, such as Adultery, cruelty, alcoholism, or drug addiction. By 1987, all fifty states had adopted no-fault divorce, exclusively or as an option to traditional fault-grounded divorce. No-fault divorce has become a quick and inexpensive means of ending a marriage, especially when a couple has no children and moderate property assets. In fact, the ability to end a marriage using no-fault procedures has led to criticism that divorce has become too easy to obtain, allowing couples to abandon a marriage at the first sign of marital discord. The division of marital property has also undergone significant change since the 1970s. Courts now consider the monetary and non-monetary contributions of a spouse as a homemaker, parent, and helper in advancing the career or career potential of the other party as, for example, when one spouse works so that the other may go to school. In distributing marital assets and setting Alimony and maintenance, the homemaker’s contributions are significant factors, although there is disagreement as to their valuation. On the other hand, courts no longer look at alimony as a long-term remedy. Alimony is now often awarded for a fixed term, so as to enable a divorced spouse to acquire education or training before entering the workforce.
Child Custody In Utah
During a marriage, all custodial rights are exercised by both parents. These include decision making power over all aspects of upbringing, religion, and education; as long as the parental decisions and conduct stay clear of the neglect, abuse, and dependency laws. Upon divorce, that power traditionally went solely to one parent who obtained custody. Traditionally, the Visitation Rights given to the noncustodial parent constituted little more than a possessory interest. This made the custody decision upon divorce a significant one: the relationship between the noncustodial parent and her or his children would change, as the parent would lose the ability to shape decisions affecting the children. In the Utah, since the nineteenth century, mothers traditionally gained custody of children. In the late twentieth century, changes in marital and social roles have led to fathers assuming duties once thought to be the exclusive province of mothers. This in turn has led to fathers showing more interest in claiming custody and to courts granting fathers custody. Yet the vast majority of custody dispositions still go to the mother. From dissatisfaction with custody decisions has emerged the concept of joint custody. Under joint custody, legal custody (the decision-making power over the child’s conduct of life) remains with both parents, and physical custody goes to one or the other or is shared. The concept has met with mixed reactions. If both parents are reasonable, both may be able to participate fully in decisions that would have been denied one of them. On the other hand, joint custody is likely to be harmful if the parents play out any lingering animosity, or confuse the child with conflicting directions, or are simply unwilling to agree on basic issues involving the child’s welfare. Beginning in 1980, the laws governing custody disputes have been guided by federal statutes. A 1980 amendment to the judiciary act authorized federal rules that control the enforcement and modification of custody decrees. When in conflict, these rules supersede state statutes, including the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), which all states have enacted in some version. The UCCJA was created to deal with interstate custody disputes. Before it was passed, a divorced parent who was unhappy with one state’s custody decision could sometimes obtain a more favorable ruling from another state. This led to divorced parents’ Kidnapping their children and moving to another state in order to petition for custody. With the growing number of disputes among parents regarding custody and visitation of children to the marriage, states have recognized that grandparents often play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggest that more than 80 percent of grandparents responding said that they had seen their grandchildren within the previous month. Each of the 50 states has adopted provisions in their family laws allowing visitation for grandparents under certain circumstances. Such laws have come under attack by parents, who argue that giving grandparents visitation rights infringes on their right to raise their children as they see fit. In most cases, a divorce decree will require the noncustodial parent, usually the father, to pay child support. The failure of parents to pay child support has significant consequences. Lack of support may force the custodial parent to apply for welfare, which in turn affects government budgets and ultimately taxes. This problem has resulted in increasingly more aggressive collection efforts by the government. The Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) exists in all states in some form. URESA allows an individual who is due alimony or child support from someone who lives in a different state to bring action for receipt of the payments in the home state. This measure circumvents such problems as expense and inconvenience inherent in traveling from one state to another in pursuit of support. In response to federal legislation that mandates a more aggressive approach, states have become more creative in extracting money from those who fail to pay child support—who, because they are usually fathers, have come to be labeled deadbeat dads. In 1975, Congress enacted a provision that created the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the department of health and human services. The office was charged with developing ways of collecting child support. In 1984, the law was amended to strengthen enforcement powers. State laws now must require employers to withhold child support from the paychecks of parents who are delinquent for one month. Employers are to be held responsible if they do not comply fully. State laws must provide for the imposition of liens against the property of those who owe support. Unpaid support must be deducted from federal and state Income Tax refunds. Expedited hearings are required in support cases.
Family Law Court Procedures
Family law has been governed by the adversarial process. This process is geared to produce a winner and a loser. In divorce and child custody cases, the process has increased tensions between the parties, tensions that do not go away after the court process is completed. States have begun to explore non-adversarial alternatives, including family mediation. Court systems are also experimenting with more informal procedures for handling family law cases, in hopes of diffusing the emotions of the parties. You may be a bit reluctant to hire an attorney to get you through your divorce, but an experienced, local divorce lawyers know the law, especially as it pertains to your state.
What Should I Expect When Working with a Family Lawyer?
Because the family law practice area is so broad, it’s hard to say exactly what you can expect from a family law proceeding. But in the end, you should have a better defined relationship with your family. In any case, your lawyer should supply you with advice on whether you should take your case to court and how strong your case is. Your lawyer should take you through every step of the process of filing papers or a lawsuit. For document creation or review, you can expect that your family lawyer will create a legally binding agreement that has clear terms you can understand. If you have to go through negotiations or go to court, there is no guarantee that the outcomes will be ideal for you, but having a family lawyer on your side will give you the best information and chance of winning your case.
Family Law Lawyer Salt Lake City Utah
When you need legal help with family law in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC 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