Areas of Law Covered in Family Law

Family Law encompasses areas of law that affect family relationships. These include the following types of issues:

Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights

Adopting a child (or even an adult) is a complicated process. There are many reasons why a person may want to adopt a child. The adoption can occur in when one or both parents chose who their child will be adopted by. A step parent can adopt the biological children of their spouse. There are also adoptions that occur through an agency, which places children for adoption, or international adoptions, where a child is adopted from another country. Generally speaking, an adoption cannot occur without a termination of one or both of the biological parent’s rights and responsibilities.

Divorce (with and without children)

When one or both parties in a marriage decide that they no longer want to be married, they seek a divorce. Often in divorces, there are assets and debts to be divided and, if there are children, decisions to be made about how custody and child support will be determined between the parents. Divorce addresses issues such as who will be awarded property, assets and debts. It will address property which may have been acquired before marriage, after marriage, through an inheritance or a gift and other property and debt issues that arise when parties move on from their relationship. Divorces will also address issues about who will have custody and visitation with children and what child support obligations each party will have upon divorce.

Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support

Whether parents are married and divorcing, or were never married, child custody, visitation and child support are important rights and responsibilities that can be addressed by the courts.

Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support Modifications

When there is a change of circumstances in the child(ren)’s or parents’ life that require changes to a decree or order of Child Custody, Visitation and/or Support, the parents may seek to modify or change the order or decree to address the changed circumstances.

Paternity

There are times when parents want to make sure that the father of a child is the biological father. This can occur when a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, when there is a reason to questions whether the male in the relationship is the true biological father or when one or both parents want peace of mind about their relationship with a child. Sometimes a mother or custodial guardian may want to seek a child support order against a biological father. A paternity action will often be in the best interest of the child or children and can also provide protection for both the mother and father of the child or children.

Prospective (Putative) Fathers

What is a putative father, you may ask? A putative father is a man whose legal relationship to a child has not been established, but who may be the biological father of a child born to a woman to whom he is not married when the child is born. When a male has relationship with a female which could result in the birth of a child which the male/father is unaware of, then man/father who wants to ensure he does not give up his rights to any unknown child or children is required to take certain steps to ensure his rights are not lost. Click here to see more information.

Restraining or Protection Orders

Protection orders or restraining order are orders from the court which prohibit a person from being near another person. Restraining orders are often seen when relationships are deteriorating or ending. There are valid reasons why someone may seek protection orders, such as when there is violence or a real threat of violence between two parties who are in a relationship. There are also times when a party may want to dispute the need for a protection order, such as where the restraining order may be sought to stop or interfere with visitation or custody of children.

Grandparent Rights

In certain circumstances, Grandparents have certain rights to see their grandchildren.

Guardianship and Conservatorship over Children

When one or both parents are unable to care for a child or children, a non-parent may seek to obtain custody of the child or children. The process of seek custody of the minor child or children is called guardianship. When there is a need to control financial assets of a child, a non-parent may consider seeking a conservatorship. The guardianship process and conservatorship can be complex.

Guardianship and Conservatorship over Adults

There may come a time when adults are unable to care for themselves due to advanced age or mental or physical illness. When there is a need to help care for an adult or parent who is no longer able to care for themselves, a guardianship and/or conservatorship is an appropriate way to obtain the legal authority needed to ensure they are not in danger.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that can give authority to a third party to take some or all of the actions that an individual could take themselves. A power of attorney can also be “durable,” meaning it remains effective when a person becomes incapacitated or can no longer make rational decisions. A person must be legally competent to give someone else the right and authority to act on their behalf. There are many reasons why a person may seek to give someone a power of attorney. Because you are giving the power to someone to act on your behalf, care should be taken to ensure your interests are protected and the power of attorney is not abused.

Power of Attorney for Parental Care

There are times when the parent of a child or children may want to give a non-parent the authority to care for their child or children. This can occur when a parent has a prolonged illness, when a child is living with another person who is not their parent, when a parent is in the military and is deployed. The law provides the ability to give another person the authority to act on their children’s behalf for a limited period of time.