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What Does a Family Law Attorney Do?
A family law attorney generally handles matters that involve the family court system, including family-related issues and domestic relationships. Some of the common practice areas family lawyers handle include:
- Marital property division
- Prenuptial agreements
- Child custody cases
- Child support
- Parental rights
- Alimony or spousal support
- Domestic violence
- Restraining orders
- Estate planning
- Juvenile dependency
- Juvenile delinquency
- Child abuse
Family lawyers may work in many capacities, including as a private lawyer in a small family law firm, a family law lawyer in a big firm, for county or state government agencies, in nonprofit organizations, or as a state attorney. Attorneys act as advocates for their clients, which may include representing the interests of a minor child in child abuse or juvenile dependency hearings.
Do Family Law Attorneys Handle Divorce?
A large part of family law practice involves divorce. Divorce can be a difficult process, especially when the couple is in dispute over how to handle the separation. A contested divorce can get complicated when emotions are involved, often involving money problems or infidelity. Divorce is a major life-changing event and it can be difficult to navigate on your own.
In general, a divorce lawyer can only represent one spouse in a divorce. There is a conflict of interest in trying to represent both spouses. When you find a family law attorney, your attorney will act as an advocate for you and advise you in your best interests.
In an uncontested divorce, a family law attorney can help their client prepare the divorce order, with all the issues settled between the couple, including division of property and child custody and visitation. In an uncontested divorce, there is nothing left for the court to decide and the court may issue the final divorce court order after making sure the couple has met all the statutory requirements to legally end the marriage.
In a contested divorce, there may be a dispute over many issues, including property, alimony, and child custody. If the couple cannot settle these issues through negotiations or mediation, it may be left up to the family court judge to decide how to settle the disputes. Contested divorces can take longer and be more expensive for each spouse.
Do You Need a Family Law Attorney?
Some family law issues can be handled without an attorney, including simple court filings like name changes. However, when there are important issues at stake, it may be best to find an experienced lawyer for legal advice. A divorce may involve dividing up a lot of money, property, and assets. Lack of legal representation may expose you to losing out on what you deserve after a separation.
The most important issue for many separating couples is visitation and child custody issues. If there are disputes in child custody, a family lawyer can help make sure your child will be safe and properly provided for. This includes granting custody with the custodial parent, working out a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of your child, and getting the financial support necessary to care for your child.