You are familiar with the concepts of divorce, adoption, and custody.
But what laws govern them?
What makes one marriage valid, and another invalid? How does adoption work?
As the name suggests, family law deals with these principles, disputes, and matters concerning families. This includes issues between two spouses, matters concerning guardianship over children, internal relationships, violence within the family, and other related conflicts.
In order to regulate these disputes, there exist various types of family law.
Let’s explore some of these below.
1. Marriage, Divorce and Common Law Relationships
A family is its own unit, that usually begins with a marriage. So naturally, one type of family law deals with the elements that define a legally recognizable marriage. This might include a matrimonial age, a marriage license requirement, and other such obligations. What constitutes a valid marriage?
Laws surrounding bigamy, and incestuous relationships all come under the purview of such laws.
Secondly, if there are rules for a valid marriage, there must be rules for a valid divorce. And so this part of the law must define and outline the requirements for a valid divorce, or an annulment.
The third one might simply pertain to common law practice. The court may identify the presence of a relationship in order to justify things like maintenance, legitimacy of children, etc.
2. Custody and Visitation Rights
Following a divorce, or during, there is the determination of custody and visitation rights as well. One parent may have restricted or supervised visitation rights, or in some cases, there is the revocation of visitation rights.
Questions like who retains custody of the child, whether there should be joint custody or sole custody must also be answered. This kind of family law interlinks with divorce and separation of the spouses.
3. Child Support, Alimony, and Division of Assets
Similarly, former spouses may need to support the other through maintenance decrees. Some may mandate alimony or child support. Generally, this depends on several factors like need, self-sufficiency and economic disadvantage. The law requires the consideration of the economic statuses of both individuals.
In some cases, paternal or maternal rights may also be in question. Here the court must take appropriate steps to ensure that such subjects are handled with care and without detriment to the child’s well-being.
Laws regarding the division of assets, enforcement of pre-nuptial agreements, and allotment of properties acquired post-marriage by the individuals. These laws deal with the limitations regarding these rules. Their interpretation in varying circumstances occurs at the discretion of the court.
4. Guardianship and Adoption
In the case of an adoption, there are specific requirements surrounding the entire process. These laws also come into play when parents change their minds about an adopted child or in other similar issues regarding guardianship and parental status.
The idea behind these laws is to protect the interests and rights of a child. A thorough process is necessary to make sure that the couple or individual is mentally, physically and economically fit to care for the child’s well-being in the capacity of a parent.
Similarly, if you are someone who seeks to attain guardianship rights over a child, you would be subjected to a certain legal process. If your child is being sent into foster care, and you want to challenge this decision, you would have to seek out a remedy through guardianship law.
Ideally, you should find an attorney who is well-versed with the relevant branch of family law and let them represent your case effectively.
5. Termination of Parental Rights and Emancipation
Some parents may not be deemed fit for parenthood or capable of acting in the best interest of their children. In such situations, the court may mandate the termination of parental rights. These laws elaborate on the conditions that permit this action.
Additionally, children under the age of 18 might want to be legally emancipated from their parents. This means they prefer to exercise autonomy over their lives. In this case, the child would have to petition to a family court for legal approval of emancipation.
6. Domestic Violence
Domestic violence laws apply to families and households, and so it forms a natural part of family law. It aims to provide remedies for those who are victims of physical or emotional abuse from someone in their family. This could include preventive measures like restraining orders, to limit contact with the defendant.
It also deals with definitions of what constitutes domestic violence, who can claim protection under such laws and who it applies to. Though family laws are generally civil in their nature, in the case of domestic violence, victims may be able to avail of criminal remedies as well.
Defenses against false allegations of domestic violence are also available under these laws.
Different Types of Family Law and the Legal Process
The legal processes involved with these laws may differ. Some may base preferences on mediation and out of court settlements, while others may require family courts.
Family courts are special courts that are equipped to deal with the special nature of various family disputes. Due to the sensitive nature of these conflicts and the victims involved (like children), these courts usually have a different environment. These often include counselors and family psychologists to ensure that things go smoothly.
Different states have their own special rules on the various types of family law, but the general principals will be the same.
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