Family law cases can involve a wide variety of issues, from simple property rights to complex child custody decisions. Because family law is so broad, it’s helpful for family lawyers to understand the different types of cases that might come up. Here are some common kinds of family legal cases, and an idea of what they involve:
While there are many kinds of divorces, the most common one is the “fault” divorce. In a “fault” divorce, one spouse can get a divorce as long as they give their spouse a reason to get a divorce, like abuse or abandonment. Even if one spouse doesn’t want a divorce, a “fault” divorce may still be granted if there’s a reason, like if one spouse tried to kill the other spouse. When someone petitions for a divorce, the court will hear evidence and arguments from both parties, and decide how to split property, debts, and other issues.
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Children can be placed for adoption by the birth mother, through adoption by the birth father, or by any couple who is married or living together as husband and wife. In some states, unmarried partners (like a boyfriend/girlfriend or a committed partner in a domestic partnership) can also adopt a child together. Adoption is a great way to give a child a loving home, because it’s a permanent arrangement. When a couple decides to adopt a child, the process can be fairly simple or highly complicated, depending on the circumstances of the adoption. If the child has special needs.
Custody and Child Support
Custody is the right to decide where a child lives and with whom, and who has custody at a certain time. Parents can fight over custody, or share custody. If a parent has sole custody, they decide where their child lives and with whom they spend time. If a parent has joint custody, they both have the right to decide the child’s custody, but the judge has authority to decide who sets the schedule. Child support is money that one parent pays to the other to help with the cost of raising the child, like housing, food, and health care. Child support can be complicated by things like one parent who has a higher income than the other and/or an agreement between the parents as to who pays what.
Legally Separated Cohabitation or Common-Law Marriage
In many states, it is possible for two people to live together for a long period of time without getting married; this is called cohabitation. If the relationship ends, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the partners are legally separated, but it can be an option if the law in the state does not recognize a common-law marriage. There are many ways for two people to live together without getting married. Two people can live together as roommates, or they can cohabitate with others, such as in a co-op or corporation. If two people are living together and have children, they are likely to have their relationship classified as a common-law marriage, even if they don’t have a marriage license. Some states do not consider living together a “marriage” and do not recognize common-law marriages.
Enforcing a Judgment or Settlement in a Family Law Case
After a judge makes a decision in a family case, there may be no way to change that decision until the person who lost the case appeals or tries to enforce the decision in a separate civil action. Enforcement can involve things like taking back property or money that was wrongfully obtained, or can involve seeking damages for things like emotional distress or financial loss. Basically, if a case goes to trial and a judge rules on the outcome, the losing party can appeal and ask that decision be enforced.