Many people may mistakenly believe that only matters related to children require a family lawyer, but In California, a family law lawyer handles many legal matters related to the family, with or without children.
Six Areas a Family Law Attorney May Be Needed
Included under the umbrella of ‘family law’ are these six legal matters:
- Legal separation
- Paternity actions
- Domestic violence restraining orders
- Modifications to court orders.
Family Law for Unmarried Parents
When the parties are not married and have children, a family law attorney can help with filing a ‘paternity action’ which would establish the father legally and address:
- Child support
In California, the petition that would be filed with the court is a ‘petition to establish parental relationship’.
Central to this type of filing is the opportunity for the parents to agree on a parenting schedule. In this regard, the parties would go to court for mediation. If the parents cannot agree then they would go before the judge who would make a ruling.
Unmarried Parents Filing for Temporary Orders
Sometimes, in this type of situation, the parties may require temporary orders for custody, visitation, and support while they go through the court process. If this is necessary, the family law attorney would file a Request for Order which allows for a hearing for temporary orders. A trial would make the court order for custody, visitation & support permanent, but could be changed at a later date if circumstances change.
Child Support Issues
Child support is another matter that family law attorneys regularly handle. Child support can come from the Child Support Services office or from the family court. To make a change to an existing child support order, the petitioner would need to have the current order so that the attorney can file a ‘request for order’. A hearing is needed to approve, deny or modify the change.
The Various Areas of Family Law for Divorcing Couples
When the parties are married and wish to change or dissolve the relationship, family law lawyers advise the client and may file a divorce, legal separation, or annulment depending on the circumstance. Issues such as spousal support, division of assets and debts as well as custody, visitation, and support for children need to be addressed in a divorce or legal separation. It is always best to agree on the issues to avoid a court appearance.
The process for a legal separation is the same as that for a divorce. However, once a legal separation is complete, the parties are not divorced and cannot remarry.
An annulment is a special case and requires ‘legal grounds’. An annulment voids the marriage as if it never took place. A ‘legal ground’ is a legally approved reason as to why an annulment, as opposed to a divorce, should be granted. The attorney would review the reason for the annulment and advise as to the likelihood that it would be granted. Some of the common reasons for annulment are bigamy and fraud.
Making Changes to Existing Court Orders
Once the divorce or legal separation is finalized, one or both parties may wish to change the existing court order due to a change in circumstance or a mutually agreed upon change. This can be done by filing a Request for Order or, if agreed upon, a stipulation. The parties may not need to go to court if both agree to the change.
Requesting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order
At times there is a need for a domestic violence restraining order. This is usually requested when one party is harassing another. This could involve a married couple, a family member, or those that are or were dating or in a romantic relationship. The family law attorney can assess the situation and provide legal solutions.
In short, a family law attorney is involved in most matters that pertain to family members.