When lawyers say they practice “family law,” they are telling you that they have a specialty in working with clients in all the legal aspects of family relations: generally the spousal relationship, the domestic partner relationship and the parent-child relationship. Family law for spousal relationships includes prenuptial agreements, separations, divorces and modification proceedings. Domestic partner relationships essentially cover these areas, but from the context of long-term relationships or civil unions between unmarried people. Legal matters involved in parent-child relationships include establishing paternity, custody and parenting time, modifying custody and parenting time (formerly known as “visitation”) establishing and modifying child support, DHS proceedings for abuse and neglect brought by the State, guardianships, grandparent and third party custody proceedings and adoptions.
When family law lawyers talk to each other, they often refer to each other as practicing “domestic relations law,” or “dom rel.” The terms “family law” and “domestic relations law” are used almost interchangeably. However, in practice, many family law lawyers limit themselves to some degree and do not practice in all family law areas. For instance, some lawyers will only work on divorces and modifications. Some lawyers will avoid DHS cases. Some will only work on adoptions or guardianships. Ask your lawyer if he or she has any such limitations to his or her family law practice.
An experienced and successful family law lawyer will have a broad fund of legal knowledge-extending well beyond family law basics and into other areas of practice. A family law lawyer should be well-versed in contract law, debtor-creditor law, business law, real estate law and estate planning. The family law lawyer should also have knowledge of bankruptcy and tax issues that impact the case. Every family law situation is unique. Most family law lawyers are qualified to do your work. The question remains, who is the best fit for your unique situation?
Article Written By: Peter C. Diamond, Warren Allen LLP
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