JM&A is able to bring its considerable litigation skills to the area of family law. We have staff in training to obtain Limited License Legal Technicians. With the utilization of LLLT’s we can keep the costs down and provide affordable representation to families struggling with issues of divorce and custody. We utilize creative fee agreements with our family law clients including limited representation agreements to provide the client with representation that is affordable.
What is Family Law?
Family law addresses family relationships. It includes creating family relationships and breaking them through divorce and termination of parental rights. Family law includes adoption, contested custody of children and the child support obligations that result.
Divorce is the process of breaking the bonds of matrimony. A marriage is a contract. When parties get married, they form a legal relationship in the eyes of the state. When they no longer wish to have this relationship, they must file court papers in order to ask for a divorce.
In most cases, the court looks to make an equitable division of the assets. This doesn’t necessarily mean dividing things equally. The court can look at things like the parties’ contributions to the marriage, the length of the marriage and the needs of each party after the divorce. Misconduct such as infidelity or domestic abuse can also play into the court’s decision.
Alimony and spousal support
One of the hot button issues in a divorce case is often alimony and spousal support. Some states use a formula in order to determine the amount of support. In other cases, it’s left to the judge’s discretion. Even in cases where the court uses a formula, it’s still important to make sure that the court uses the proper inputs in order to arrive at the correct amount of support.
The length of the marriage is one of the considerations for spousal support. It also depends on a parent’s ability to pay and levels of jointly-accumulated debt. The court looks at the age of the parties and whether they can work. Finally, they consider the misconduct of either party. Family lawyers work to present evidence of these factors to the court in order to ask them to reach the best result.
Child custody is one of the most debated and contested areas of family law. Most states decide child custody and parenting time based on the best interests of the child. The court considers things like which parent has the greater bond with the child, whether each parent has a stable home and whether either parent has a significant criminal record or substance abuse issues.
Children have the right to support from both of their parents. The goal of child support is to provide children whose parents live in separate households the same financial resources that they might have if both parents lived under one roof. The courts presume that the parent who cares for the child provides support directly for the child.
Child support is largely determined by formula. Each state has their own formula for making child support calculations. Most formulas consider each parent’s income, allowable deductions for taxes and other expenses, a child’s health insurance expenses and whether they have child care needs. Some states also consider the amount of time that each parent spends with the child. Not all states take parenting time into account.
Family lawyers work with their clients to make sure that child support amounts are accurate. If the other parent tries to hide income or is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, a family lawyer can help their client show the court the entire circumstances. A family lawyer also reviews the calculations of the court to make sure that there aren’t any computational errors that could result in an inaccurate child support award.
Abuse and neglect proceedings
Another sensitive area of family law practice is abuse and neglect. When the state believes that a parent isn’t able to appropriately care for a child, they might initiate abuse and neglect proceedings. They might represent a parent accused of abuse or neglect, or they might even represent a child.
When family lawyers represent clients in abuse and neglect proceedings, they work to help their clients either defend against allegations of abuse or neglect or help their clients comply with services and other requirements in order to regain custody of their children. The standard for terminating parental rights is very high. Family lawyers aggressively advocate for their clients when the state wants to terminate a parent’s rights.