Wondering if you should hire a family lawyer? Here are a few reasons why it could be time to call an attorney. From divorce to adoption to estate plans, child custody, and more, a lawyer can help protect you & your family.
Also known as matrimonial law, family law practitioners cover a wide array of topics, including divorce, child custody, and dispute resolutions. The duty of family lawyers is to uphold the interests of the family structure; hiring a family attorney means you’ll have someone on your side to help you navigate troubled waters in your marriage, or prepare for any family situation that may arise.
Here are 6 reasons you may want to hire a family lawyer.
When You’re Preparing for Marriage
Many women find themselves asking “what is a family law attorney and when do I need one?” after divorce damage is already done. Having a family lawyer help you prepare for marriage can save you a lot of heartache and headache in the future. Hopefully, you have a happily-ever-after marriage, however, the odds are that you may not. In fact, 50 percent of marriages don’t work out, according to the US Census Bureau. This is why it’s a good idea to talk to a family defense attorney even before you walk down the aisle. A few things an attorney can help you understand and sort out before marriage include:
- Prenuptial agreements – why you might need one, and what it will protect
- Future child custody – What will happen to any future children you may have if you should divorce down the road?
- Real estate questions – Do you own property? If so, is it considered a mutual or “community” asset with you betrothed? (the answer is probably.)
- Credit cards and other debt – If your spouse runs up a huge credit card bill, will it impact you? It’s likely.
With a 50 percent chance you’ll be searching for family law firms after marriage, why not go ahead and consult one? It isn’t going to jinx you– it’s just statistics and good strategy.
When You’ve Formed a Civil Union or Domestic Partnership
Are you the type who doesn’t need to be “married” to accomplish your life’s goals? Well, a civil union or domestic partnership may be for you. However, there are limited benefits when it comes to opting for a civil union or domestic partnership over marriage. These were popular before homosexual couples could legally be wed. There are a few reasons the LGBTQ community fought for marriage:
- Federal recognition of the union – There are only a handful of states that recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships, and the partner rights established by those unions are not protected outside of the state in which they are initiated. This means, unlike marriage, there are no federal protections to partners in these types of unions.
- Immigration – Couples in hopes of being legally united as US citizens are out of luck when it comes to unions outside of marriage.
- Taxes – Because civil unions are not recognized federally, couples cannot file jointly and benefit from tax breaks or protections.
However, after LGBTQ couples could get married in 2015, many couples decided to stay in their civil unions or domestic partnerships. If you are currently in a civil union and wanting to legally separate from your partner, it’s advisable to contact a family lawyer in your state to do so. With so many changing laws and state-specific regulation, a family lawyer can help you make sure things go smoothly when deciding to dissolve your civil union or domestic partnership.
When You’re Adopting a Child
Adopting a child is a lifelong dream for many, but it is also a strenuous legal process. In fact, many adoption attempts end in failure due to legal complications, which results in a lot of emotional and physical distress. Having a family attorney with you throughout the process can ensure that the legal aspects of adopting your child are taken care of. An adoption attorney can help you with the following items when going through this process:
- Managing and completing the mounds of paperwork that comes with adoptions
- Navigating deadlines for the above-mentioned paperwork
- Issues with the birth parents
- Representation if you are required to attend any court hearings
Having someone on your side through this process can make it much more manageable, and perhaps even help your marriage in the end. Distressing situations can take its toll on marriages; do what you can to limit the stress.
When a Divorce is Looming
Unfortunately, as stated above 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Many find themselves Googling “divorce advice for women” in the middle of the night. If you’ve found yourself asking Google what to do about your horrible marriage, it may be time to find an attorney to help you understand your next steps. Ending a marriage is a complicated, often emotional journey, so getting a lawyer on board as soon as possible is advisable.
Depending on your state, waiting around too long might mean staying in the marriage way longer than you wanted. For instance, in North Carolina, a couple must be separated for an entire year before actually filing for divorce. You must also have proof that during the year you have resided in different domiciles. An attorney will help you understand what your state requires to get divorced, as well as protect your family in the process.
When You Decide You Need an Estate Plan
It’s like Ben Franklin said, there are only two certain things in life: death and taxes. An estate plan can help you rest easy regarding both of those certainties. An estate plan will ensure that your family and assets are taken care of after you pass, which helps your family not have to go through a heart-aching probate process. An estate plan was once only considered by the wealthy, however, anyone and everyone who has assets (cars, houses, boats, etc) should have an estate plan drafted. Here are a few reasons you and your spouse need to consider drafting an estate plan as soon as possible:
- It protects beneficiaries and the children – without a plan, the court will decide who gets your assets which can rack up hefty fees and emotional hurt, not to mention take years to get resolved. Additionally, if your children are still young, an estate plan will ensure they are left in the care of the right people.
- It protects your heirs from the IRS – We mentioned taxes, right? Well, having a plan ensures that your beneficiaries are protected from the IRS. A strategically drafted estate plan will cut down on the tax bill when your assets are legally transferred over.
- It protects your family’s bonds – Without a thoughtful estate plan, things can get messy within families quickly. An estate plan can help you to avoid any family warring after you’ve passed.
If you’ve not yet finalized an estate plan, contact a family attorney to help you do so as soon as possible.
When There’s Conflict Over Child Custody
One of the most heartbreaking aspects of divorce is when couples fight brutally over the children. While custody battles are typically done for the best interest of the child, many times the outcome is anything but in the best interest of the child. Life after divorce for women, unfortunately, usually means tireless custody battles. Having an attorney to help you navigate this from the beginning can save your family a lot of emotional distress. Your attorney can help you understand what type of custody arrangement is best for your family, the process of reaching a custody agreement, child support obligations, and any other personal and emotional considerations.
Getting an attorney on board as early as possible will get you the best scenario possible when it comes to custody agreements, property disputes, and other familial disputes. It could also help you settle family conflict out of court, which will ultimately be the best case scenario for all involved. Don’t let negative connotations around “lawyering up” cause you to lose out in the end. Save yourself and your family despair, and get an attorney on your side ASAP.