Guide to Parental Rights & Obligations
What is Family Law?
Family law consists of a body of statutes and case precedents that govern the legal responsibilities between individuals who share a domestic connection. These cases usually involve parties who are related by blood or marriage, but family law can affect those in more distant or casual relationships as well. Due to the emotionally-charged nature of most family law cases, litigants are strongly advised to retain legal counsel.
The vast majority of family law proceedings come about as a result of the termination of a marriage or romantic relationship. Family law attorneys help their clients file for separation or divorce, alimony, and child custody, visitation, and support. Spouses married a short time may seek an annulment, and special rights may exist between same-sex couples. The division of property at the end of a marriage is also a common issue in family law cases.
With respect to property division at the time of divorce, every state has a comprehensive set of laws in place to determine the rights of the parties. However, couples who do not agree with the default rules in their state can “opt-out” by hiring a lawyer to draft a prenuptial agreement. Absent fraud or duress, courts will enforce these premarital agreements upon divorce, and distribute property and financial support accordingly.
Family law also involves the prevention of physical and emotional abuse. The potential for domestic abuse is not limited to relationships between current or former spouses and their children. Judges will not hesitate to assert jurisdiction to protect an elderly family member, someone in a dating relationship, or even a roommate. When allegations of abuse are made, the court will typically issue a restraining order to prevent further contact.
In a contested family law case, most people understand that hiring a skilled attorney will provide an advantage. An attorney can find assets or income the other party is trying to hide, present arguments regarding child support and visitation, and even take the case to trial if settlement talks fail. Attorney representation is just as crucial in uncontested cases, however. Without it, a party is vulnerable and can unknowingly waive important legal rights.
Parental Rights & Obligations
The issue of child custody is the most common dispute in family court. As should be expected, parents are extremely concerned with the safety, education, and overall wellbeing of their children. Custody decisions become even more difficult following a divorce or breakup, as parents tend to be distrustful of each other at these times. Regardless of the state of affairs between the parents, judges will always decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.”
In an effort to do what is best for the child, the court can assign legal and physical custody to one parent, or these rights can be shared. A typical schedule would allow the child to spend weekends, summers, and alternating holidays with the non-custodial parent, with both parents having an equal say in major decisions affecting the child. When approving a custody schedule, the court will do what it can to avoid unnecessary disruptions to the child’s life.
All parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children. The amount of support ordered in a particular case will be calculated according to state statute. Most states publish a child support worksheet that simplifies the task. The calculation will take into account the respective incomes of the parents, the cost of health insurance for the child, support paid for other children by the non-custodial parent, and more.
Custody and support orders are subject to modification. In fact, family law attorneys spend much of their time representing clients in modification proceedings. To alter a visitation schedule or revise the amount of child support, the requesting party must demonstrate that circumstances have changed since the order was entered. Examples of changed circumstances include loss of employment, moving, a parent becoming disabled, etc.
Family law cases can involve a number of other issues. Establishing (or disproving) paternity is a common subject of litigation, although it is becoming less complicated with the ability of courts to order DNA testing. Other issues include the termination of parental rights, adoption, gay and LGBT relations, and grandparent rights. Family law in the 21st century is evolving quickly, making it more important than ever to seek advice from a qualified attorney.
Know your Rights!
- Creating a Prenuptial Agreement
It is easy to become wrapped up in the excitement of love and a wedding and to forget about what exactly could be at stake should things go wrong. It may not be terribly romantic, but it could be very wise to think through both the good and the bad of a marriage.
- How Does a Minor Get Emancipated from His or Her Parents?
Emancipation allows a a minor to conduct business or hold a job on his or her own behalf, enter into contracts, and otherwise generally be treated as one who had reached the age of majority (i.e., an adult). Whether parental consent is required for emancipation can depend on the circumstances and the jurisdiction.
- How to Get an Annulment
In many ways, annulments are no different than divorces. Like a divorce, an annulment is a court order after a proceeding that essentially dissolves a marriage. But, unlike a divorce, an annulment has the legal effect of declaring that the marriage never existed in the first place.
- Where is Same-Sex Marriage Legal in the United States?
Same-sex marriage is now legally recognized in several states as well as the federal government for tax and immigration purposes.
Articles About Family Law
- Steps Women Should Take Before Getting a DivorceBefore plunging into the waters of divorce, women can take several steps to help make the process easier. Decisions made immediately prior to divorce can have a financial impact for years to come.
- How Does a Minor Get Emancipated?Some find it surprising, but it is not that uncommon for family law attorneys to hear the question “how does a minor get emancipated?” Reasons for emancipation can vary widely, from unhappy home environments to needing to grant a minor independence to govern his or her own affairs.
- Steps to Take Before Getting a DivorceAs much as getting a divorce is an emotional decision, it is also a financial decision. Once someone has made the decision to pursue a divorce, he or she should immediately take steps to safeguard his financial and legal interests.
- Contributing to Your Grandchildren's FutureWhen estate planning, gifting assets to your grandchildren can do more than help your descendants get a good start in life; it can also reduce the size of your estate and the tax that will be due upon your death.
- Discouraging Adoption Fraud and Misrepresentation / Duty to Report Abuse and Guarding of ConfidentialityEspecially in the case of adoption, the Code specifically requires an attorney to actively discourage adoption fraud or misrepresentation and prohibits the attorney from engaging in such conduct.
- Setting and Communicating Attorney FeesBoth Codes require that an attorney enter into a written fee agreement with a client and requires the attorney to carefully explain and ensure that the client understands the fee agreement. The fees collected by an attorney with respect to an adoption or surrogacy cannot be illegal or unconscionable and must be commensurate with the services provided.
- Appraising All Parties of Their Rights and ObligationsAdoptions and Surrogacy Agreements raise substantial ethical considerations. Particularly in the case of Surrogacy Agreements, the parties are essentially contracting with one another for the use of another woman’s uterus.
- How Do I Garnish Wages for Child Support?In a typical debtor/creditor case, a creditor must go to court and get a judgment against a debtor before it can take part in collection efforts on the debt, such as garnishment or property assignments. Parents who are not receiving the support that they are entitled to receive per an existing court order do not typically have to go through the process of getting a judgment to have wages automatically withheld from the other parent’s wages.
- Underage Drinking Liability: Illinois House Bill 4745Minor in possession. Open container violations. Driving under the influence. Minors are particularly susceptible to committing these alcohol-related crimes in peer-driven situations while still underage. Some parents have resigned to the fact that their children will drink regardless of their efforts, and will do everything they can to keep them safe—even if that means breaking the law themselves.
- Basics of MediationMediation is negotiating with the assistance of a neutral third party (the mediator) who facilitates the negotiation process.
- All Family Law Articles
Family Law - US
- ABA - Section of Family Law
American Bar Association Section of Family Law's dedicated lawyers, associates and law students serve as leaders in the field of marital and family law. ABA Section of Family Law offers products and resources for lawyers, students and the public.
- Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
The purpose of Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is to ensure the welfare and well-being of the quality of life of children and families. Their programs are aimed at empowering and equipping individuals, families and communities by finding solutions to difficult situations, through assistance, support and caring.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
Child Welfare Information Gateway contributes to protecting children by providing access to, online and offline, resources. The information covers topics related to the welfare of children.
- Family Law
Here legal aspects regarding Family Law are addressed. The material and topics include, but are not limited to: living together, marriage, divorce, adoption, child support and more.
- Family Law - State Statutes
Family Law legislation differs from State to State. Here the Statues, regarding Family Law across the country.
- Family Law - Wikipedia
Family Law is part of the law that deals with relations within the family and issues related thereto. Examples of family law are: the nature and issues arising from a marriage; civil unions and domestic partnerships; mental and physical abuse of the spouse and/or children; legitimacy, adoption, surrogacy and abduction of children; annulment, divorce, alimony and settlements; and custody, visitation and support pertaining to the child.
- Family Law Organization - Family Law Code by State
Family Law Organization offers resources to attorneys and parents. These resources include the Family Law Code, attorney database and discussion links.
- Uniting American Families Act
The Uniting American Families Act (formerly the Permanent Partners Immigration Act) amends the definition of “spouse” under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. This remedy allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration.
- US Department of Health and Human Services - Families
This Department provides essential human services to protect the health of the people. The topics contain information on safety, health insurance and how to improve your own health and the health of your family.