Family attorneys benefit society by providing services that make families stronger, help ease family dissolutions, and protect the future of family members. In this article, we’ll consider the many societal services attorneys provide and how hiring a family lawyer can provide a family with a trusted friend to turn to for many of the milestones of life. On television, a family attorney tends to be depicted as a professional kept on retainer for a wealthy family, but we debunk that myth in this article by showing how family law serves the larger populace.
Family law refers to all legal matters involving family issues. An attorney specializing in these matters may handle marriage considerations, such as pre and post-nuptial agreements, legal separation, divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, adoption, surrogacy, wills, trusts, and much more. Eventually, every person needs a family attorney. Let’s explore why in depth.
Matters of Marriage
When hiring a family lawyer for the first time, many individuals do so at the establishment of their own family. Some couples choose to create a civil union instead of getting married. A family attorney writes the civil union documents, handles having them signed by both parties, may serve as a witness if the couple has a ceremony in front of a judge, and files the paperwork with the family court.
A couple may need a family lawyer to create a pre-nuptial agreement, a document that provides protection for the assets of each person in the marriage. These documents often designate the disbursement of funds or other assets in case of divorce or another situation that would place one spouse’s assets under the control of a third party. Although depicted as a tool of the wealthy to protect their fortunes, in reality, a pre-nuptial agreement serves a couple establishing their family by protecting each other before the marital date.
A post-nuptial agreement accomplishes the same things as a prenuptial agreement, but the couple files it after their wedding day. Commonly, the couple comes into money after the marriage or one party in the marriage does. The post-nuptial agreement designates the amount of the money or assets that go to each spouse or one spouse in the case of divorce or another situation. Both types of agreements protect a spouse that other family members dislike or who may lack outside resources to hire their own lawyer for a court fight.
Matters of Divorce
When a marriage experiences irreconcilable problems, both spouses may find themselves each hiring a family lawyer to serve as their family court attorney during the process of a trial separation, legal separation, divorce, and other related matters. Typically, a family law firm employs a few attorneys, each with a specialty, such as marital concerns. Because of this, it’s common to have the same lawyer who created the pre- or post-nuptial agreement, handle the divorce.
The best divorce lawyers ease marital dissolution by moderating meetings between the spouses and creating a peaceful space for negotiations. At this point in an individual’s life, hiring a family lawyer tops the list of important tasks. The lawyers involved in the divorce help the couple negotiate alimony payments and the immediate settlement, i.e. the division of assets. This attorney manages all aspects of the divorce, including matters of child custody, child support, and visitation schedules.
Another reason for both spouses hiring a family lawyer comes from the complexity of the separation and divorce process. An individual’s divorce attorney explains the processes involved in a divorce. The lawyer makes sure that their client understands all of the steps of the process and filings required. The divorce attorney also explains strategy options in cases of less than amicable divorces and contested divorces.
Most divorces include few actual court dates. Family attorneys do their best to use mediation to decide each matter in the divorce, especially the division of property, alimony, and child custody and support.
Some attorneys specializing in family law also handle matters of grandparents’ rights. Some complex divorces or situations involving the death of one or both parents may overlook the desire of grandparents to remain active in the life of their grandchild or grandchildren. Some family lawyers specialize in representing the rights of these family members, so they can gain visitation or custody of their family members.
Matters of Children
Another reason a family might find itself hiring a family lawyer concerns welcoming children to the family. Whether a family fosters, adopts, or welcomes a child by natural birth, a family lawyer can help them protect the child’s interests from the day they join the family. A family attorney represents the family in matters of foster care and adoption, helping the couple or individual complete qualifying paperwork and adoption documentation.
These attorneys help establish families in another way; they create the legal documents that designate a child carried by a surrogate as the offspring of its intended parents. Few couples use traditional surrogacy now, but an attorney must know how to author court papers to address both traditional and gestational surrogacy. In the former, the surrogate provides the egg that helps form the embryo, but in the former type, the surrogate carries an embryo created from the egg and sperm of the intended parents. A couple may file pre-birth or post-birth surrogacy documents, depending on which option their state of residence allows.
Another way that hiring a family lawyer helps a family relates to legally naming a guardian for the child or children. A guardianship attorney serves society by protecting children in the potential situation that they lose both parents. A couple names a guardian upon adopting a child or giving birth to one. This person cares for their child or children only if they both die, also managing the child’s trust.
Sometimes, during childhood, the family discovers that the child has health issues that preclude them from someday caring for themselves. In this case, in addition to the guardianship papers, the couple also files conservatorship papers. A conservatorship provides a fiscal caregiver for the child throughout their adulthood, who manages and administers their finances, paying their bills, including room and board at an assisted living facility or specialty housing designed specifically for their medical and/or mental health care. Necessary legal documents rarely create such a firestorm of conflict, since they typically provide extended care for children born with debilitating birth defects or who undergo life-altering injuries that preclude them from self-care.
In a related situation, sometimes parents differ in their opinions on what constitutes the best interests of a child. They may come into conflict over the course of treatment for a childhood illness or after the injury of a child in an accident. Each may obtain the services of a family attorney and have the family court system decide the case. Although rare, in these situations, the family attorney serves the greater good, because although they represent the parents, the child ultimately benefits from the court’s decision.
Most cases a family lawyer handles do not decide case law, but these healthcare-related cases can. Their delicate topics require a humble, yet savvy lawyer who cares about the child involved more than anything else. These lawyers must both vigilantly represent their clients, the parents, but serve the greater good, too. Handling these special cases takes a compassionate, caring attorney.
Many families turn to estate planning lawyer services to establish their wills and trusts. Although the term trust fund has earned a reputation as something used by the wealthy, in truth, families of all income levels may find themselves hiring a family lawyer to write a will and/or establish a trust. A will speeds the probate process when an individual dies, while a trust establishes legal protection for family assets so that upon the death of an individual, those assets immediately pass to their beneficiaries.
The best family lawyers explain the many types of trusts, such as revocable and irrevocable trusts. Simply, an individual can add or remove assets from a revocable trust, but once an irrevocable trust gets created, it exists until the individual dies, at which time, its contents pass to the named beneficiaries. Hiring a family lawyer can also help an individual create a trust that activates if they become incapacitated or incompetent. This trust ensures that the individuals can choose for themselves who will administer their trust, serve as their conservators, and hold their legal power of attorney.
Family Attorneys Serve Greater Society
In law, a family lawyer serves an unusual place in law since it does not typically involve court battles or proving guilt or innocence. Instead, the family attorney serves the best interests of the family as a whole, looking out for parents, children, and even pets. They specialize, so your local will attorney may not also handle divorces, but typically, someone at their law firm will.
Hiring a family lawyer also means having a trusted friend in the legal profession who can provide referrals, should the family ever need someone who specializes in malpractice law or criminal law. Attorneys form a close-knit group who often keep in touch after law school or their initial internships. A family’s go-to attorney serves as a catalyst for locating other trustworthy legal professionals.
Society Needs Family Law
In most people’s life, there comes a time when hiring a family lawyer becomes necessary. The tasks completed by these legal professionals help protect families, especially children. Although they rarely appear in court or litigate a case, they serve one of the most important aspects of our society – the family unit.
Although best known for handling divorces, family lawyers do much more. The brunt of their work week includes writing legal documents that provide financial and medical protection for children, spouses, and parents. They handle the paperwork that creates and establishes families, whether through a civil union, marriage, or adoption.
A family attorney serves a higher purpose in the lives of a family’s members because they help to maintain and care for the family. Without the attorney, the parents would have to rely on verbal agreements with family members or friends with no legal recourse to enforce their choices about their own lives and families. Family law and the attorneys who practice it protect the core of our society – the family.
A family attorney can help establish a trust to protect a settlement from an accident or workplace-induced illness, so it provides for the individual’s long-term care. They also ensure that it passes immediately to the person’s family members. These individuals serve as estate planning gurus, assisting the parents in a family in planning for the eventuality of their deaths. This may include guidance on the purchase of life insurance, protection of the family home in a trust, and the placement of stocks, bonds, and other property in the same trust.
Most of these attorneys work on a contingency basis, which helps both individuals in a couple afford talented representation in matters involving divorce or child custody. Contingency payment means that the lawyer does not get paid until the end of the case, which means once court papers finalize property division and alimony payments. Family attorneys do sometimes work under a retainer if a family needs frequent representation or the attorney serves as the legal guardian or conservator of an individual in the family.
When an individual comes to a family law firm, they do so with a specific need in mind. Their need relates to one of the most important aspects of our society – the family. Whether they want to establish a family or need to dissolve theirs, they need a compassionate individual to represent them.
Other people approach these lawyers about growing their families. This may happen by natural childbirth, surrogacy, fostering, or adoption. The family’s representation forms a core facet of growing their family.
Further, this important area of law protects all family members. Matters of guardianship, conservatorship, and other long-term care fall into this area of law. Rounded out by estate planning, this area of law serves society with its every activity.