Have you ever done something for so long that its like second nature to you, and then you tell someone what you do and they have no idea what it means? That happens to me quite a bit. I’m a Family Law attorney and when I tell people this is what I do for a living, its not out of the ordinary for someone to ask me what that means.
Some people assume that I am in the business of putting families together, which sometimes that is true. In our office we do adoptions and guardianships, which is in some ways putting families together.
Other times, people assume I’m only in the business of tearing families apart. Honestly, that’s really not my job. When a family is falling apart, that is not something I can control, what I can control, or at least try, is what that is going to look like after the whole thing falls to pieces.
Family law encompasses numerous areas of the law and depending on how the firm is structured and what areas the attorneys choose to practice in will be instrumental in determining how much of the family law areas they actually work in.
Some firms only handle divorce and custody matters. Divorce can and, a lot of time does, involve custody, it can also involve property matters. If someone is needing help with just a custody matter they probably weren’t married to the other parent and are just needing to get, on paper, who is going to have custody of the child(ren) and what visitation is going to look like.
In cases only dealing with custody matters, normally the parents are no longer together. I’ve had couples call to figure out custody and visitation even though they are still living together. If that is the case, then both will have custody and there won’t be visitation because they, um, live together! When we get calls like they we worry that its only a matter of time before we hear from them and their living situation has changed.
Family law firms can also handle guardianship cases and adoption cases. Its not unusual for a firm that does primarily adoption cases to eventually make it to all they do. Adoptions can be very involved, document and procedural heavy so, when a firm starts doing a lot of these, unless they have quite a few attorneys that can handle a variety of cases, they will usually opt to just focus on adoptions and let the rest of the family law issues be handled elsewhere.
Family law firms can, and often do, handle Estate Planning and sometimes Probate cases. Again, Estate Planning, creating Wills, Trusts, Power of Attorneys, Living Wills, all typically involve family members and matters. Its also not unusual for this type of work to solely be done in a firm that only does this work and they may never handle a divorce or custody matter.
Another area that family law attorneys can and often do handle are deprived cases. These are cases where the State has removed a child(ren) from the home for a cause, usually neglect, abuse and/or domestic violence or some other issue and the parent hires a firm to help them through the deprived process to get their child(ren) back home. This area of law is a completely different animal than your typical family law case, is governed by a completely different set of laws than the domestic dockets use and someone in this situation seriously needs to consider hiring an attorney that knows the laws and is extremely familiar in these types of actions.
Our firm handles all issues relating to the family; divorce, custody, guardianships, deprived actions, adoptions, wills and trusts and probates. We are able to do this because we have enough attorneys that have expertise in these areas of the law.
So, when you think of family law – if you are going through issues that either brings or separates family members, you will probably be pretty close to having one of your issues addressed if you are looking for a family law attorney.