What is family law anyways? It encapsulates a lot of areas.
When looking at this question, a good place to start is when people look to the legal system for help in getting agreements (or court orders) once they have separated from their spouse. Family law is the legal system that is both formal and informal, depending on which process you use, that assists people in getting clear answers and agreements to the various areas of their lives they need agreements about once separating from their spouse.
What is Family law? It is an area of law that answers questions like:
The answers to the above questions can be reached in a relatively informal process like a negotiation or 4-way meeting. Even though the process can be informal, the ultimate result is formal, in that the parties can enter into a legally binding and enforceable agreement.
Other times, these questions will be answered for the parties by a judge
For example, at Hemminger Law Group, we see ourselves as lawyers who assist people in navigating the answers to the above questions, both within formal court process and outside of it. The above questions, are really, legally, all about spousal support, child support, parenting plans, parenting responsibilities, and asset and debt division.
In relation to all these areas, there are an endless amount of sub-categories of information and issues that may need to be decided. It really depends on the parties and their circumstances.
For example, when it comes to the parenting plan, some parents cannot, for the life of them (or the benefit of their children), agree on ANYTHING. They cannot agree on where the children will live, how often they will see each parent, what school the kids should go to, or even who should be making these decisions in the first place.
One area that parents may need help from their lawyers is about determining how they will exercise the various parental responsibilities when raising their children. The parental responsibilities themselves are set out in section 41 of the Family Law Act.
What are the parental responsibilities that you need to decide about? Will you share the parental responsibilities with the other parent? What if you are sure you will not be able to agree on anything significant with the other parent? Do you ask for the parental responsibilities to be borne by you solely so you don’t have to engage with the other parent? You may have heard of a parenting coordinator and you may want to know if a parenting coordinator can help you and the other parent with exercising parental responsibilities.
Other areas people need help with may be assisting them with child support applications (or responding to such claims), finding out if someone is entitled to or will have to pay spousal support, finding out whether or not the parties are going to have to sell their family home now that they are separating, finding out whether or not one parent can get some financial assistance from the other parent when they have found out their child needs braces, or finding out how a parent who is away a lot from time to time (as when they are in the military), can parent their kids when they are in town.
Not only do people need help with areas in what is family law such as this, they also can be helped in various different ways. For example, just because someone hires a lawyer to assist them, it does not necessarily mean they are going to end up in a courtroom in front of a judge in a trial. In fact, we would say that most of the time we are able to avoid trial. When looking at what is family law, lawyers can assist with not only your court case, but with the mediation process, negotiating with your ex-spouse and their lawyer in a 4-way meeting, or even simply attending a settlement conference with you to bring you closer towards resolution.