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What Is Family Law?

As a Family Law attorney, I am often asked: "What exactly is 'Family Law'?" For the average person, the term Family Law is quite abstract. For the average lawyer, the term Family Law is quite encompassing. While other areas of the law, such as Criminal Law, Real Estate, etc. are generally understood practice areas, the term Family Law is often confused, either by being pigeon holed or by an overly expansive definition. My hope is that after reading this article you will better understand all of the personal circumstances in which a Family Law attorney can help you.  You can also refer back to our website for additional information regarding the services that Miller & Gaudio can provide within the realm of family law.

Undeniably, the most common and generally recognized area of Family Law is divorce litigation. In its most basic concept, divorce litigation involves the formal and legal termination of a marital relationship, which gives rise to a myriad of competing issues, including alimony, child support, child custody, and equitable distribution. However, once the parties are officially divorced, a variety of post-judgment issues become paramount, including a potential change in circumstances leading to the modification of alimony and child support obligations, changes in the custodial relationship (including applications to move with children out of state), payment of college expenses, and general failure to adhere to the terms of the parties' Judgment of Divorce. Unfortunately, the post-judgment litigation endured by divorced parties can often last longer, and be more costly, than the initial divorce.

Beyond the standard divorce proceedings, there are a variety of additional areas within Family Law, with similar legal principles and case law to those in divorce proceedings, which do not rise out of a marital relationship. In this context, Family Law also encompasses circumstances in which non-married parents have a dispute regarding their children, the breakdown of a same-sex civil union occurs, unmarried cohabitants (with joint assets and intertwined finances) separate, and grandparents seek visitation, to name a few.

The realm of possible Family Law matters that may require legal assistance, however, extends even further. A competent Family Law attorney can also help couples in preparing prenuptial, cohabitation and mid-marriage agreements. With regard to additional custodial issues, Family Law encompasses adoption proceedings, paternity disputes, and termination of parental rights. Finally, although often viewed as a criminal matter, Family Law attorneys routinely handle domestic violence disputes that give rise to restraining orders.

All told, the field of Family Law is quite complex and often has implications outside of its field, in terms of tax issues, short and long term financial planning, estate concerns and, in almost all cases, psychological and emotional well-being. While many competent attorneys focus on specific areas within the all-encompassing field of Family Law, hiring an attorney who is well versed in all of the potential fields of Family Law and is well-rounded with regard to overall knowledge concerning financial and psychological issues can be the difference between obtaining a desired outcome which coincides with your short term and long term goals and needs and obtaining a resolution to your case which will haunt you for years to come.

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