Most family law attorneys focus on divorce, including related issues like splitting up property, figuring out alimony, and negotiating child custody and support. (For more information, see Ten Ways a Divorce Lawyer Can Help You.) But family lawyers handle a wide variety of other matters as well, from adoption to paternity, from guardianship to domestic disputes.
What a Family Lawyer Does
An experienced family lawyer can help you:
- Write a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement and represent you if you and your spouse change your mind or have a later disagreement about the terms of your contract.
- Adopt a child, including understanding your local rules, finding an adoption agency if necessary, filling out paperwork, and representing you at any legal hearings.
- Handle guardianship or conservatorship proceedings.
- Get a restraining order or other protections if you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse.
- Resolve questions of paternity or termination of parental rights.
- If you are an LGBT couple, help you understand the unique concerns that apply to your family situation including marriage or divorce, domestic partnership, or adoption in your state and county.
- Evaluate the strength of your case in any kind of dispute related to family law.
- Fill out necessary paperwork and get it filed on time without costly mistakes.
- Negotiate on your behalf and represent you in court if necessary.
- Stay objective. In a difficult case, you won’t get the best results if your judgment is clouded by anger, frustration, or fear. A good lawyer can help you make clear-minded decisions.
Find a Good Family Lawyer
Like tax law, bankruptcy law, or criminal law, family law is a specialty subject involving complex legal rules. Someone claiming to be a family lawyer should be able to point to experience and deep knowledge of family law and your local network of agencies, organizations, and courts.
For an experienced family lawyer, many aspects of family law cases are routine. Chances are good that an experienced lawyer has already seen a situation like yours. The lawyer you choose should be able to advise you on the best way to proceed with your family law case, given your unique circumstances and the local laws and procedures that apply.
If you're going to hire a family lawyer, make sure you get a good one. Do your homework and comparison shop before you hire someone to represent you.