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Family law is defined as statutes, court decisions, and provisions of federal and state constitutions that relate to the rights, duties, finances, and relationships of families. Many individuals think of family law as being singularly focused on marriage and divorce, but the truth is that family law embodies much more than that.
For pre-marriage, marriage and family law, attorneys can draft, negotiate and review prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements. If a couple is looking to enter into these types of marital agreements, it is best for both spouses to have independent counsel. This will make for a fair agreement, have everyone's interests protected, and can reduce the chance of the agreement being challenged and thrown out later.
Adoption, Surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs)
For adoptions, would-be parents must have an attorney to ensure all the legal requirements are carried out to protect their family in the future. For those thinking about surrogacy, they must speak to a lawyer qualified in their area, as many states have very strict requirements for legal surrogacy contracts.
Divorce typically includes considerations of income and assets, property settlements, alimony, child custody, visitation and child support. While simple divorces may not need both spouses to have an attorney, it is always in a person's best interest to at least speak to a family law attorney before beginning the divorce process. Mediation is a potential option that many couples find useful, and most states require parents to attempt mediation for child custody issues before resorting to litigation.
Paternity Law and Parentage Law for Unmarried Couples
Unmarried fathers can have the same rights as married fathers; however, they may have to go through some extra steps to secure their parental rights. Note that a biological father being listed on a birth certificate is often not enough to bestow parental rights to him. Unmarried fathers may have to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP), or bring a paternity petition before a judge to be the child's legal father. Fathers, mothers and the state, in some circumstances, may bring paternity actions against the other party for child custody, child visitation and child support.
If you have questions about these listed areas of family law, it is best to meet with a family law attorney. Family attorneys have a full understanding of the cases and circumstances that may arise. While this page seeks to develop your understand of family law issues, it is not a substitute for having a lawyer to consult with and receiving the most knowledgeable and up-to-date information.
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