What Is Family Law?

Family Law is in place to help to settle disputes between family members relating to family life. These disputes usually occur between couples when they break up and often involve the children.

What Does Family Law Involve? 

Family Law involves several different factors, including child custody, divorce and separation, absent parents, and adoption, as well as conducting negotiations and drawing up legal documents such as property agreements and court petitions.

Some of the most common reasons for employing a Family Lawyer include:

  • Devising settlements when there is a divorce
  • Paternity cases – either on the behalf of a mother who is looking for financial support from a child’s father, or a father who wants access to their child
  • Child custody or child support – often as part of a divorce case, but also if conditions (such as the financial situation of one of the parents) change
  • Adoption or foster care – to enable adoption to occur, or for fosterers to legally adopt a child that they are caring for

Helpful Terms to Know 

When it comes to Family Law, there are several terms that are commonly used and it is important to know what they mean.

Emancipation 

The term ‘emancipation’ refers to the court process whereby a child becomes self-supporting. They take on responsibility for their own welfare and are, therefore, no longer the responsibility of their parents.

This process can be, in essence, like a child divorcing their parents when they want more independence. The term can also be used when a parent looks to prove that a child is independent enough to terminate child support.

A minor can seek emancipation which gives them certain rights, but it does not give them all of the rights of an adult in the UK.

Marital Property 

The term ‘marital property’ refers to a house that is acquired by either spouse separately or together during the length of a marriage. When a married couple divorces, the marital property is then subject to division.

This is not clear-cut, however. If a couple has been married for a lengthy amount of time, for example, a property could be defined as being a ‘matrimonial property’ and divided between the parties. If, however, the couple has not been together for very long, it could be considered to be ‘non-matrimonial’ and an extra-marital property, allowing one of the parties to make a claim for it.

Alimony 

The term ‘alimony’ refers to the allowance that is made from one spouse to the other during divorce or legal separation for support. In the UK, alimony is also known as ‘maintenance’ or ‘financial provison’.

The idea behind alimony is for the financially ‘weaker’ spouse to be able to adjust to their new circumstances after a breakup.

Paternity 

The term ‘paternity’ refers to a person’s father. In the case of family law, this is often used relating to proving who the father of a child is, in order to either give them access to the child or to obligate them to make child support payments.

DNA tests can be used by the court to determine the paternity of a child.

Prenuptial Agreement 

The term ‘prenuptial agreement’ refers to an agreement that is made between a couple before they get married. It will normally stipulate that should they break up they have no rights in the future over the other spouse’s property.

A prenuptial agreement will normally record any assets and then give details surrounding what will happen to them if the couple were to break up. If a prenuptial agreement is not made when a marriage takes place, generally speaking, all of the assets are considered to be the property of both parties and shared between them. The agreement allows each spouse to ensure that should a divorce occur, certain assets with remain with them.

Why Hire A Family Law Attorney?

When it comes to matters of the family, any sort of necessity for going to court can be very emotional. Whether it is relating to divorce, childcare, or financial aspects, a family law attorney can help you through the process and make sure that you get a fair representation and the best outcome for all members of the family.

There are many different areas to family law, and you may find that you do better with an attorney who specialises in the aspect of family law that is affecting you, or, likewise one that specialises more generally.

Family law can also overlap with some of the other areas of law, including property law, mediation, and collaborative law, and immigration and naturalisation law.


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