What is family law?

The law can be a strange and complicated animal, so if you’re wondering exactly what areas are covered by ‘family law,’ read on for a brief guide.

Basically, family law deals with all legal issues relating to the family. The first one that springs to mind is, of course, divorce and all its related issues. That means if you’re thinking of getting a divorce the person you need to contact is a solicitor who specialises in family law. Often, a law practice will specialise in a specific type of law and this will be made clear in their title. Because legal matters relating to the family are the most common types of issue lawyers come across, however, most lawyers are able to deal with it.

A solicitor who deals in family law will be able to explain how the legal process of divorce works. Generally, it is not the divorce itself that causes problems, but the related financial, housing, and childcare issues. When one spouse initiates the proceedings for a divorce, which is known as filing a divorce petition, the other spouse rarely contests this. This means that the divorce itself can happen without either spouse having to actually go to court. This type of family law leeds to a less painful breakup.

However, a marriage normally entails a great many financial entanglements. For example, a decision will need to be made on who keeps the family home, or if it is to be sold on who will receive what percentage of the proceeds. It is rare that a couple have ever paid half of absolutely every household expense each, but it is only when it comes to divorce that this usually causes problems. Family law is there to make decisions on these issues when the couples themselves can’t.

When it comes to children, the courts advise that the parents work out these arrangements between them. Having to go through a lengthy court process can be both confusing and very traumatic for children, not to mention them having to listen to their parents argue and denigrate the others’ parenting skills. Even after divorce, both parents will need to cooperate, so it’s best to learn to do this as soon as possible. However, again, if the couple cannot work out these arrangements between them, family law exists to make a decision in the best interests of the children.

Family law also covers all issues relating to the dissolution of a civil partnership, which is generally treated as being legally the same as a divorce except when it comes to one of the grounds for divorce. Instead of the term ‘adultery,’ which is used when one half of a heterosexual couple has been unfaithful, in the dissolution of a civil partnership this is simply referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour.’ Again, if there are children involved in these cases, the courts can step in to make decisions for their welfare.

In addition, family law covers such issues as domestic abuse, child abuse, legitimacy, adoption, paternity fraud, juvenile adjudication, parental responsibility and inheritance matters. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that family law covers all issues between family members. Issues such as theft or assault between family members are covered by criminal law.