Family Law Basics

Family Law Basics

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,‘family law’ is an area of law dealing with family relations including divorce, adoption, paternity, custody and support.[1]  Family law involves the regulations and rules that apply to individuals who are domestically tied together, whether that means married individuals, relatives, and even individuals in casual relationships.

As a family law attorney, a common thread I see amongst all of my family law cases is high emotions. These high emotions are warranted considering most family law cases have high stakes, like the welfare of a child. In saying that, it can be tremendously difficult to keep your emotions out of the case.  Essentially, family law attorneys are legal representation to prevent individual’s emotions from taking over the case.  

Types of Family Law Cases 

A family law attorney can have several different types of cases.  The most commons cases are:

-      Divorce

-      Separation 

-      Child Custody 

-      Child Support

-      Alimony

-      Paternity 

-      Adoption 

-      Protection Orders for Domestic Violence 

A Typical Family Law Case

Most clients seek out an attorney when their marriage or relationship comes to an end.  As expected, the end of a marriage ignites child custody claims, financial claims and asset arguments.  When the parties get to a point where they cannot agree on how to resolve these issues, they turn to attorneys.  

 As attorneys, we are supposed to help these individuals resolve issues like child custody, divorce, and paternity issues.  If you took out us attorneys, these individuals would be taking their marital and relationship issues directly to the court.  If you take your issues directly to the court, you leave the resolutions in the hands of judges and may no longer have control. 

 Some people may think other issues are not as drastic.  Perhaps your relationship is amazing, and you want to do something simple like adoption. While the issue of a happy family adopting may not seem as big of stakes as failed marriages and dividing assets, you may still need a lawyer to help you understand the rules and requirements of issues relating to adoption.

 What Happens in a Family Law Case?

As I said above, there are many different cases in family law and each situation is unique to that case. Having an attorney is important to help you understand the various ways in which you can handle the issues in your particular case.  

 In cases such as divorce and custody, parties can opt to have their issues resolved with mediation. In mediation, opposing parties meet with your lawyers and try to reach an agreement with a neutral third-party mediator.  If both parties can agree on a resolution, then you can have your lawyers draw up an agreement.  In the latter, if the parties cannot agree to resolve an issue, your next step is going to court.  In many family law issues, the court provides the solution from there.  This is where you may need a family law lawyer to stand up for you and your rights in court. 

 Due to family law’s vast amount of issues, it can be difficult to understand.  While your cousin may have gotten a divorce, your situation is going to be different, in return requiring different approaches.  To understand how to solve your unique issue, please contact a family law attorney.  

 Understanding Your Rights

 Just like other areas of law, family law has many facets.  It can be difficult to understand your rights. Under family law, every state has different statutes.  For example, adultery (cheating on your spouse) excludes you from alimony in a South Carolina divorce.[2] 

 Whether you have a child custody case or a divorce, you have some basic rights.  Both parents have the right to fight for custody or visitation of a child and a parent may have the right to child support from the other parent. 

 Without understanding the laws of your state, you may forego important rights.  Speak to a lawyer and let them help you understand what rights you may have in your situation.  


[2]S.C. Code Section 20-3-130(2013). 

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