What Is Family Law?

Family LawFamily law focuses on issues involving families and family relationships. This includes divorce, child custody, and adoption, among other topics. Family law attorneys represent clients in a variety of family-related issues such as preparing prenuptial agreements, facilitating adoptions, establishing paternity and divorces.

Important Family Law Areas To Know

Involved in a family law matter? It is essential to understand common issues that arise during these cases.


Emancipation is a legal process that involves a minor assuming adult responsibility for themselves and becoming self-supporting. Following this, the minor is no longer under the care of their parents or guardians. The age requirement for emancipation is usually 16 years of age, although it varies by state.

The benefits of getting emancipated include:

  • The ability to keep any and all income they earn
  • To make decisions for themselves
  • To apply for public benefits
  • The ability to enroll in a school of their choice
  • To enter into a contract, such as a lease agreement
  • The ability to sue

There are limitations to emancipation, however, which include age-restricted laws such as the ability to vote or consume alcohol.


Paternity refers to the origin or descent from a father. The goal of paternity cases is to confirm the identity of a child’s father. Establishing paternity is essential for a child because it affects essential rights. This can include the ability of the father to make crucial decisions for the child and the child’s right to inherit from the father.

You can establish paternity at any time following the birth of a child. Cases involving paternity include either a voluntary proceeding, where the man chooses to enter into the paternity case, or a formal proceeding, where the man is forced to enter into the paternity case.

Paternity testing in family law has become more straightforward over the last couple of decades and involves either blood tests or DNA tests.

Prenuptial Agreement 

A prenuptial agreement, also known as a prenup, is a written contract made between two partners before their marriage. The document outlines which properties they own, and what each person’s property rights will be should the marriage end in divorce or death.

Prenuptial agreements are commonly used among people who want to protect their property in the event of a divorce. However, there are several benefits for getting a prenup, including:

  • Clarifying financial rights
  • Passing property from previous marriages to biological children
  • Protection from debts
  • Avoiding arguments in case of divorce

If you need to create a prenuptial agreement, get into contact with a family law attorney to help you cover your bases.


Alimony, or spousal support, is the legal obligation for one spouse to provide financial assistance or allowance to the other spouse following a divorce. If one spouse earns significantly more money than the other, they will likely have to pay alimony unless their marriage was short.

If a person is ordered to pay alimony, they will have to continue to pay it until:

  • A date set by the judge, usually several years into the future
  • Your children no longer need a full-time parent at home
  • Your former spouse remarries
  • A judge determines that your spouse has not made any effort to become self-supporting
  • One of you dies
  • Some other significant event occurs, such as retirement or serious physical disability

If you and your spouse can’t agree to alimony terms on your own, you will have to hire a family law attorney and go to court to settle the details of alimony.

Marital Property

Marital property refers to property that you and your spouse acquired throughout your marriage. It is subject to division during a divorce. Most states are common law states. If your name is attached to a property, then it belongs to you.

However, if both your name and your spouse’s name are on the property, you each own one-half share of interest and dividing upon divorce can be tricky. In order to decide which spouse gets what property, people will often need to go to family law court to settle the outcome.

Child Custody/Child Support 

Child custody and child support cases involve court orders or settlement agreements that are typically involved in a larger divorce case. However, they can also be revisited well after a divorce.

Child custody involves determining who will have physical and legal custody of a child. There are different types of custody, which include:

Sole Custody: One parent has sole legal and physical custody of the child. The other parent has limited to visitation or supervised parenting.

Joint Custody: Both parents have legal custody of the child and can make decisions for the child. They typically split time equally in terms of spending time with the child.

Split Custody: This is much less common, but it involves one parent having sole custody of one child and the other parent having sole custody of another.

Family law courts issue child support orders. They are legal obligations by one spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse for the care of their child.


Adoption is a complex process that varies from state to state and involves the legal system in order to make a person a child’s legal parent. There are complex adoption court procedures that vary based on the type of adoption that’s occurring. Different types of adoption include:

  • Through an agency
  • Adopting independently
  • Adopting internationally
  • Through identification
  • As stepparents
  • As same-sex couples
  • Adopting an adult
  • Adopting a relative
  • Foster children

If you are trying to adopt, it’s important to have a family law attorney who understands how to navigate the complex legal process of adoption.

Work with an Experienced Local Family Law Attorney

If you’re experiencing legal issues such as child custody, alimony or divorce, you want to find someone who understands the process. Working with a qualified family law attorney in your area may help the case go in your favor.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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