Law is a fascinating thing inasmuch as it differs from one jurisdiction to another. For example, there are areas of law here in the U.S. that are not covered in other countries. Some areas of U.S. law are highly specialized as well. Take family law. It is a major part of what constitutes the entire body of law in this country.
You may be familiar with family law only in the sense that you have seen advertisements from law firms offering their services. On the other hand, you may have first-hand experience with family law. In either case, this is one area of law for which it pays to have at least a fundamental understanding. To that end, below are five important things to know about family law in the U.S.
1. What Family Law Covers
Family law is a very specific area of law covering well-defined statutes, legal obligations, etc. Chicago’s ABM Family Law says family law attorneys typically deal with:
- divorce and annulment
- child custody and financial support
- paternity issues
- grandparents’ rights
- adoption and foster care.
You would hire a family law attorney if you needed help with any of these types of issues. Family law firms rarely delve into criminal matters like DUI. Rather, they focus on things that affect families and relationships.
2. Family Law Overlaps Other Areas
There are times when family law overlaps with other areas of law. A good example is immigration and naturalization. While immigration and naturalization are governed by their own statues, there are unavoidable cases in which those statutes intersect with family issues. Consider a court determining the custody of a child born in the U.S. to an alien mother without legal status. If that mother were to be deported, a court might decide the custody of the child go to someone else.
3. Mediation Is Often Possible
In many areas of family law, it is not necessary to utilize attorneys. Mediation services can be utilized instead. Couples seeking to divorce do this all the time. They use mediators to help them work out a non-contested divorce, avoiding getting lawyers involved. There are also cases in which both are utilized. Lawyers handle the paperwork and legal proceedings while mediators help the couple work things out.
4. Attorneys Move Things Along
Attorneys tend to play a bigger role in issues of family law compared to other types of law. Divorce proceedings illustrate the point quite well. In a divorce proceeding, courts want to avoid trials if they can. They allow attorneys and their clients to work things out, utilizing status conferences to check on progress. If attorneys can help a couple reach a settlement without having to go to trial, the court is happy. Courts would rather have attorneys move things along than have to directly intervene.
5. Practicing Family Law Is Not Easy
Finally, just about any family law attorney can tell you that practicing in this particular area is not easy. The types of issues family law deals with are almost always sensitive issues. They involve family dynamics and relationships. Often times, the ones most affected by family law cases are children. It takes a certain kind of attorney to practice family law with the right combination of competence and compassion.
If you have never had personal experience with family law, count yourself fortunate. If you have, here’s hoping that things worked out for the best. You never know when it comes to the delicate issues that family law covers. Sometimes things end well, other times they do not.