Family law is a specialized area of the legal system that primarily deals with domestic relations and family matters. The family courts deal with all matters related to family relationships such as marriage, divorce, adoption, surrogacy and alimony. It is a place where disputes are settled by the court through a process of negotiation, mediation, arbitration or through a trial. In some instances family courts may also decide issues such as guardianship, division of property and child custody.
Adoption is an important area of family law that deals specifically with the issue of bringing a new life into the world. This area also includes the issue of civil unions and domestic partner relationships. Civil unions allow opposite-sex and same-sex couples to share the rights, responsibilities, and benefits of legally recognized marriage. Domestic partner relationships fall between the classifications of civil unions and marriages. Adoption, however, is a different legal practice area that applies to the immediate family members of a person adopting a child.
Divorce deals with the termination of a relationship where one party has died, has filed for bankruptcy or is suffering from serious mental illness or disease. A trial or arbitration will be necessary to determine the division of property and other assets. The family law courts tend to give more weight to what is called a “live together” marriage rather than a “divorce” marriage. Even though a marriage is deemed “live together” in family law matters, a divorce proceeding can occur before or after the marriage.
Custody of children is an issue of family law that tends to affect children of separated or divorced parents more than those of married parents. Child custody is the care and welfare of a child or children that have been awarded to one parent. Custody can be awarded physical or legal custody. There are also matters such as visitation rights and support that are determined by the family law courts.
Separated couples are not the only parties to a marriage that may require the courts. Legal parents, for example, are ones who are petitioned to join in a marriage that their children would still have if they were still married. Grandparents can petition to become legal parents of a child. Grandparents must first demonstrate to the court that they can raise the child to be well-schooled, competent and of sound moral character. If the grandparents prove their ability to do these things, the court will grant them custody of the grandchild.
Adoption is a very complicated area of family law. Before an adoption plan can go into effect, there are a few issues that must be settled. Among these are the names of the adoptive parents; the names of the adopting child; the names of any other minor children who are in the adoptive parents’ lives; and the names of all adults who will need support in the household. Parents who are considering adopting a child need help. They should contact an adoption attorney to assist them with the forms they need to fill out.