Attorneys who specialize in the area of family law are often referred to as “divorce attorneys” although their services extend to all types of cases involving different family members. Divorce and the issues surrounding it are the most common types of cases under family law but many individuals, couples, and families will use the services of a trusted family law attorney repeatedly for a variety of needs. Since a person is almost always a member of a family during their entire life, there is always the potential for legal disputes to arise that fall under the heading of family law.
The high rate of divorce today has reduced much of the skepticism placed on premarital, or prenuptial agreements and made them much more common. A carefully crafted prenuptial agreement is a preventive document that can save time, money, and frustration in the event that a marriage ends in divorce. These documents specify the financial relationships in the marriage along with other matters that either spouse might be concerned about. Family Law Attorney Peter J Russo explains to clients that a prenuptial agreement that is properly drafted and executed by an experienced attorney is legally binding.
It is difficult for newlywed couples to foresee the potential for their marriages to end in divorce; much less the emotional turmoil that often ensues. Either spouse might try to take away the most important assets from the other as a means to punish them instead of trying to work out a settlement that is fair. The prenup will establish what the couple believed to be fair at a time when these emotions and bitterness did not come into play. Some of the special issues that a prenuptial agreement can help with include:
- When one or more spouse has children from a previous marriage that require support.
- A spouse has a family business for which they want to maintain complete ownership.
- One spouse may be entering the marriage with a large amount of debt for which the other spouse does not wish to be held legally liable.
- A spouse has or will receive a significant inheritance or owns items of personal property that they don’t want to be considered “marital property.”
Hopefully, the couple will stay married and never have the need for the prenuptial agreement. If they do, it will prevent some of the stress that comes with divorce due to the worry of losing important assets.
Relationships have changed today and marriage is no longer the only type of union that presents legal challenges. A family law attorney understands the changing laws of the state in which you and your domestic partner reside and how these laws affect your relationship and rights. When heterosexual and same-sex couples are living together without being married, some unexpected issues for which they have not prepared legally could occur.
If one partner becomes ill and is hospitalized, the other partner does not have the same rights to visit them as a spouse. If the spouse dies without leaving a will behind, all of their assets will go to family members and not to the domestic partner. A family law attorney can prepare the legal documents necessary to ensure these situations are carried out in the way the parties wish and not according to the Commonwealth.
Matters Related to Children
Some couples enter into marriage with minor children from previous relationships. Others couples have only the children they share with their current spouse. There are also couples who are unable to have children or who choose not to have their own for different reasons. Couples may decide to adopt but there are also other types of adoption that are common today including:
- International Adoptions
- Grandparent Adoptions
- Adoptions by Step-parents
- Same-Sex Couple Adoptions
- Adoptions Involving a Surrogate
Under the simplest of circumstances, adoption can be a complex and challenging process. Not surprisingly, when other factors enter into the situation, the process becomes even more so. An experienced family law attorney is essential for avoiding and addressing adoption law issues that can result in heartbreak for the adopting couple.
Grandparents’ and Children’s Rights
Grandparents are important family figures to children, often contributing to the care and nurturing of the children that builds a bond for a lifetime. When divorce or disputes occur that result in the separation of the child and the grandparent, the grandparent has legal rights to spend time with their grandchild just as a parent would with their child. In some cases, it is a matter of necessity to remove a grandchild from a dangerous situation.
Not only do grandparents have rights regarding the role they play in the lives of their grandchildren; but the children also have the right to see the grandparents that are an integral part of their family structure. A family law attorney can help you resume your relationship with your grandchild through negotiations with the child’s parents or through a courtroom proceeding.
The Matter of Divorce
The first thing that people need to understand is that, there are differences among divorce lawyers just as there are differences from one divorce to the next. It is essential to find the right match in a family law attorney to meet those specific needs of the case in order to achieve the best outcome. For example, a couple that is seeking an amicable divorce with only minor areas of disagreement probably won’t benefit from a divorce lawyer with a reputation for aggressive representation in the courtroom. The outcome for their situation will probably be better if they opt for an alternative form of dispute resolution such as mediation or collaborative law. Working out minor differences is usually a matter of reaching an agreeable compromise.
Military divorce is another example of how a couple may face special circumstances in ending their marriage. One parties status in the military can make getting divorced more complicated. The family law attorney will know which factors play a role in the divorce process and the non-military spouse’s rights to benefits and pension funds.
The best way to determine if your legal dispute should be handled by a family law attorney is to question whether there are family members involved and schedule an appointment for a consultation with a reputable attorney in your area.