When most people think about family, they think of their parents, children, spouse, and other loved ones. Lawyers and courts aren’t usually the first things that come to mind.
But chances are you’ll need the law to resolve a family matter sooner or later – if you haven’t already. Depending on your needs, you may benefit from hiring a divorce lawyer or family law attorney to help resolve your issues.
As you might expect, the field of family law includes any and all legal issues that involve family relationships. But that definition might cover more than you think.
Family law cases can be adversarial, where two or more members of the same family disagree over key issues, such as divorce or child custody. Other cases can be cooperative, where family members use the law to reach the same goals, such as adoption or estate planning. Mediation and negotiation play major roles in family law cases and can help you avoid going to court.
Where the law intersects with family matters, a good divorce or family lawyer can help you navigate your options to find the best arrangement that works for your family’s unique situation.
Types of Family Law Cases
Most family law issues begin with one person filing the relevant petition at their local California county court’s family division. Once the petition is filed, the petitioner must notify all the parties who are involved in the case so that they can represent their interests. Other types of family law cases involve drafting legal documents or agreements between parties.
Settlements or Negotiated Agreements
Whether you’re facing a divorce or figuring out child custody arrangements, a negotiated settlement agreement can help you save both time and expense. Each party enlists the help of a lawyer to negotiate and represent their interests. A negotiated settlement might be the best option for you if you’re on good terms with the other family members who are involved.
Family Mediation or Collaboration
With mediation, a neutral and objective mediator helps all of the parties (who may or may not be represented by lawyers themselves) to resolve their issues. The process is highly cooperative.
Meanwhile, collaborative family law cases involve assembling a team of professionals to help the parties reach an agreement. A collaborative support team could include mental health providers, financial consultants, or child psychologists when necessary. A collaborative approach can help set up splitting couples for long-term cooperative success.
Litigation or Going to Court
Sometimes, the parties to a family law case simply cannot see eye to eye. When negotiation, mediation, or collaboration efforts break down, your case may have to be litigated in court. Although adversarial by nature, litigation might be necessary to move forward. The parties can reach a settlement agreement up until the judge enters a judgment.
What Does Family Law Cover?
You should talk to a family lawyer about your case if it involves any of the issues below.
Marriage, Divorce, and Domestic Partnership Dissolution
- Negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement or post-marital agreement
- Mediating or negotiating a divorce settlement or domestic partnership dissolution
- Litigating a contested divorce or domestic partnership dissolution in court
- Same-sex divorce and same-sex domestic partnership dissolution
- Collaborative divorce for families with children
- Divorce for high-net-worth professionals
- Divorcing a spouse across state lines
- Name changes after a marriage or divorce
Property, Debt, and Asset Division
- Negotiating, mediating, or litigating the division of property, debts, and assets between spouses in a divorce or domestic partnership dissolution
- Determining what qualifies as “separate property” versus “community property”
- Dividing property, debts, and assets in pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements
- Dividing complex assets like stock options and carried interest
- Deciding who gets the family home or other jointly owned properties
- Situations where adultery may affect property division
Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements
- Drafting legal and physical custody agreements between parents
- Negotiating, mediating, or litigating child custody and visitation arrangements
- Determining what type of arrangement is in the best interests of your children
- Helping you and your co-parent successfully share custody
- Making changes to existing child custody or child support orders in California
- Fighting for child custody across state lines
- Moving away or out of state with your children when you share joint custody
- Objecting to your co-parent moving away with your children
- Moving away or out of state as a non-custodial parent
- Situations where adultery may affect child custody
- Legal emancipation for minor children
- Adoption or surrogacy arrangements
Spousal Support, Alimony, and Child Support
- Negotiating, mediating, or litigating spousal support, alimony, or child support payments
- Securing temporary spousal support after separation but before a divorce is finalized
- Arguing why you deserve to get alimony or spousal support and how much
- Arguing why your spouse should pay child support or other child expenses
- Investigating a spouse’s finances to find hidden wealth or assets
- Making changes to existing spousal support orders in California
- Arguing for support in domestic partnerships without marriage
Domestic Violence and Abuse
- Protecting yourself and your children from domestic violence by a partner
- Domestic violence in romantic relationships without marriage
- Protecting yourself against false accusations of domestic violence
- Filing or extending emergency, temporary, or permanent restraining or protection orders against an abusive domestic or romantic partner
Finding a Good California Family Lawyer
A good family lawyer is someone you can trust with your family’s future. Family law is personal because family is deeply personal. No two cases are the same. Your family’s legal strategy is only as good as it serves your unique goals and needs.
Family law has no one-size-fits-all approach. When you talk to your lawyer, you should feel seen, heard, and understood. Your family lawyer is the one person who is on your side to represent your best interests. Besides trusting your lawyer, you must also be able to trust in your lawyer’s expertise to get you the best possible outcome for your case – especially when it comes to issues unique to professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area.