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Many lawyers cut their legal teeth in family law, before opting to pursue other niches within the legal profession. Family law encompasses numerous sub-niches that include divorce, child support, and foster care. Attorneys that practice family law must have empathy for clients that undergo emotionally draining changes in their lives.
The purpose of this section is to provide you with an overview of family law, as well as the primary sub-niches that comprise the general legal niche.
An Attorney Defines Family Law
Attorney Mike Donatt has practiced family law for over 30 years. “Anyone can start a family,” said Donatt. “What most people do not understand is certain procedures impact the obligations of family life that must be pursued within the judicial system. You have to have a thick skin to practice family law because of implications of losing a child or worse, an entire family.”
Family law often deals with highly personal issues that come to the light of day in front of a jury and/or judge. Family law comprises both state and federal statutes, with federal law having precedence over state law. However, state laws typically form the foundation for legal decisions that pertain to family law. The practice of family law involves the rules, regulations, and court procedures that involve the participation of at least two family members. Although a few family law cases do not require legal counsel, a vast majority of family law cases, such as divorce and child custody require the services of a licensed attorney.
As Donatt points out, several online resources present information about family law, from discussing domestic violence to informing women about reproductive rights.
Let’s review the most litigated types of family law cases.
Primary Categories of Family Law
Family law comprises the legal cases that concern family eligibility, custodial rights, and financial obligations of one or more family members. Child abuse and domestic violence also fall within the family law category, but virtually every case that involves family violence results in criminal charges.
Here are the primary categories of family law:
- Child custody
- Child Support
- Marriage Eligibility
- Living Together Out of Wedlock
- Foster Care
- Parental Liability
- Child Emancipation
- Child Abuse
- Domestic Violence
- Reproductive Rights
Divorce and child custody have emerged as the most litigated family law cases. Both sub-niches of family law also can create highly contentious litigation that opens the legal door to sensitive personal information. Child emancipation laws vary by state, which presents legal issues for families that live in communities that border states that have more relaxed child emancipation statutes. Child abuse and domestic violence cases require the legal expertise of an attorney that effectively recovers financial damages, while fully prosecuting guilty parties under criminal law statutes. Parental liability often involves negligence, from not taking care of a sick child to placing children in harm’s way on purpose. Adoption represents an ever-changing sub-niche of family law, with federal statutes taking the lead in molding legal decisions.
You do not need to contact a licensed family law attorney to receive a marriage license. However, you do need the legal services of an accomplished family law attorney to craft a prenuptial agreement. Most family law attorneys offer free consultations to determine whether potential clients have a case to take to court or require defense of unfounded charges. In addition to hiring an experienced family law lawyer, you also want an attorney that possesses the demeanor to deal with emotionally charged cases that require the resolution of complex legal issues.