A family law attorney is usually retained during highly emotional, often unpleasant circumstances. And when you combine a major life event, stress and emotional turmoil, it’s understandable that many people have difficulty deciding when and if a lawyer is necessary. While there are many scenarios in which an experienced family law attorney is an asset, here are the most common reasons to hire one.
1. Divorce. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, and when they do, it’s usually not amicable. If you couldn’t even resolve who would take out the garbage by yourselves, how in the world will you divide all of your worldly goods on your own? Even if an impending divorce is truly friendly, it’s still a good idea to seek out a family law attorney because he or she can actually save you money. For example, family law attorneys know how to time insurance and tax payments to best advantage. In addition, the attorney will offer fresh ideas to help you resolve differences, finalize the divorce more quickly and much more.
2. Child custody. Determining the custody of your children is one of the most important issues you’ll ever face. Why would you ever attempt to do it without an attorney’s counsel? A family law attorney is an invaluable advocate for you and your parental rights. He or she can help you position yourself to get maximum custody, help you come to rational decisions in the best interest of your children and offer preemptive advice about future issues so you don’t wind up back in court anytime soon.
3. Alimony/child support. Alimony and child support are usually decided at the time of divorce, but they have a nasty habit of rearing their heads again through the years. Most child support, for example, is based on the non-custodial parent’s income, and if that income changes, so may the support amount. No matter which end of the support you’re on, it could make for frequent trips to court. A family law
attorney can help you fight for what’s fair.
4. Adoption. Adopting a child is a joyous occasion, and it’s wise to make sure all of the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed so your new bundle of joy is truly yours forever. An attorney’s job during the adoption process is to file necessary papers on your behalf and appear with you in court. Part of his or her job is to help you consider the fees involved in adoption and possibly negotiate those fees for you. On the other end of the equation, family law attorneys also help birth parents terminate their parental rights and shift custody to adoptive parents.
5. Estate Planning. It’s not a cheery subject, but it’s an important one: What happens to your “stuff” after you die? Most people have very specific ideas about how they want to distribute their possessions and assets; unfortunately, few of us actually take the time to consult a family law attorney on proper estate planning. The results can be disastrous for your heirs. Estate planning is surrounded by complex rules that make it a nearly impossible do-it-yourself project. Your attorney’s job is to shape your will so your intentions are carried out with as little penalty or confusion as possible for your beneficiaries. He or she can also offer suggestions for potentially tricky situations like blended families and establishing trusts for disabled children.