Family lawyers represent clients in a divorce and issues related to divorce, like division of marital property, child custody and support, and alimony, since family law deals with statutes that decide on family-related issues and domestic relations. A particular specialty law that is included in the general family law is about adoption and guardianship, juvenile delinquency, child abuse and neglect, to which some family law practitioners have come to develop this as their area of specialization. In general, family lawyers can also draft prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and litigate related matters or they can represent victims or perpetrators of domestic violence in civil protection order proceedings and can represent clients who are accused of domestic violence, but this time in a criminal proceeding.
In practice, the following are the main tasks and skills of a family lawyer: litigate contested matters that fall under family law; must acquire skills in drafting and negotiating contracts, pleadings, legal documents; resolve family-related issues; must develop exceptional, interpersonal skills in emotionally, volatile situations.
Family law practice is specially required on family-related issues, such as the following: divorce – each partner is represented by their own lawyer to help devise a settlement plan to avoid trial and these are included in the settlement plan: marital property, computation of spousal support, plan for child custody, visitation and support; child custody/child support – any settlement agreements and court orders are connected into the divorce case, but may be revisited by family lawyers when the conditions with respect to child support changes based on the changes of the financial capacity of the non-custodial parent; paternity cases – usually filed by the mother to secure child support from the absentee father, to which family lawyers are also able to handle such cases; adoption/foster care – due to the complexity of such cases, a trained and specialized family lawyer should handle these cases, as there are varied laws on these from state to state.
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A family lawyer should be able to explain fully well to their clients what the statutes are in the family law where they are affected and clarifying complex interpretations of these statutes, such as: difference between divorce, which dissolves a marriage, and annulment, which treats the marriage as if it never happened, and the repercussions of each one, including settlements; spousal support/alimony, which is about regular payments made from one spouse to the other either during a separation or after a divorce, and the family lawyer must well-explain the purpose for the said support, which is to recognize the recipient’s spouse contribution to the marriage.
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It is equally important that family lawyers practice family mediation before proceeding to divorce, which is resolving family disputes, such that the lawyer represents the neutral, third party helps the husband and wife iron out their differences and come to reach an agreement with respect to their points of contention, although the lawyer must explain ahead of time that the decisions reached by the two parties may not be legally binding.