What is Family Law?


Though everyone knows there are different branches of law, each with their own specialized lawyers, exactly how diverse these roles can be is often something the layperson is unaware of. There is criminal law and civil law, laws at all levels from the local to the international, and laws which focus on a wide variety of different aspects of justice as a whole. As law is notoriously complex and detailed, it takes specialized individuals to focus on these aspects of law, as nobody could hope to have an all-encompassing understanding of the entire corpus of a country’s laws.

What is the Purview of Family Law?

One of the kinds of lawyer that you may come across is the family law practitioner. Family law is, as you may expect, primarily concerned with legal issues that arise within and between families. Here are some of the main things a family lawyer may be called upon for;

  • Divorce proceedings generally, as well as annulment.
  • Custody of children as well as visitation matters.
  • Child support and alimony.
  • Paternity testing.
  • Some aspects of domestic violence, child abuse, child abduction, and juvenile delinquency.

Predictably, some aspects of this are more obviously dealt with than others – two American-born citizens who live in the same jurisdiction getting married is not something that typically requires the input of a lawyer, but a divorce between a couple from different countries, who own multiple residences and have children of varying ages, can be a much more difficult thing to navigate and negotiate. In such a case it is all but required that legal experts will be involved. Also be aware that family law does not deal exclusively with marriage, and that cohabiting couples have their own unique legal situation that sometimes requires legal involvement as well.

Further Specialization

Even though family law is a discrete subset of the overall body of law, it is still a broad enough field that you will find lawyers and law practices who specialize further within family law. Thus, you may find someone who is specifically a divorce lawyer, who focuses on that part of family law, including aspects such as child custody and child support.

Family matters are intensely personal and emotional, of course, but in many cases the involvement of legal experts is necessary to ensure fair and equitable conclusions to family legal matters. It can be very helpful to involve a lawyer not only to defend your position, but to act as a dispassionate intermediary. It can also be useful to consult a family lawyer in cases such as adoption or in recent times gay marriage and civil unions. As these last ones are quickly changing across the country it can be important to consult a lawyer to find out what your legal rights are.

Family law, then, concerns that whole body of law which relates to non-criminal family matters. The rules, court proceedings, and other matters of family law can become very complicated depending on your situation, but even if it seems to be an ‘open and shut’ case, it is wise to speak to a family lawyer to help ensure everything goes smoothly.