Family law consists of statutes and case decisions that govern the legal duties between and among individuals who share a domestic connection. Family law usually involves parties who are related by blood or marriage, but could also affect parties in more distant relationships. Family law in the United States developed within each state. As a result, American family law varies significantly from one state to another. Despite the differences in family legislation and procedure, new trends in family issues, as well as the federal government's desire to create a uniform system of family law, general principles have become increasingly shared in all states and territories.
Most of the cases involving family law arise from the termination of marriage or romantic relationship. Divorce and annulment are part of family law. Dispute on alimony, child custody, visitation and support accompany divorce and annulment. Divorce is a messy proceeding that requires the expertise of attorneys. Divorce is also a complicated law by itself, especially when it comes to the division of property. Laws on property division greatly from one state to another, thus an attorney handling divorce proceedings must not only be knowledgeable on divorce law, but also on property law. Family law also governs the relationship between two individuals before marriage in the drafting of prenuptial agreements. In prenuptial agreements, which are enforced upon divorce, couples can opt out from a state's default rules on property division, but the terms of prenuptial agreements must still adhere to requirements laid out by the state. In addition to defending a spouse in a divorce proceeding, an attorney also has the capability and knowledge to seek out assets that the other spouse may try to hide from the other spouse so that that property cannot be reached by any order directing the division of such assets.
In addition to divorce, one of the most common issues relating to family law is domestic violence, which does not just involve current or former spouses, but also children and other members of the family. Domestic violence is a criminal offense that is punishable by both fines and incarceration. Domestic violence cases also go through the same process as a criminal case, although, because of the intimate nature of the relationship of the parties, the cases are often emotionally draining. Plaintiffs in domestic violence cases need to hire an expert attorney to, not just argue on family law, but also on criminal law.
Another exhausting litigation relating to family law is child custody. In uncontested cases, child custody may go smoothly. Contested child custody cases are battles, with the parties often already distrustful with each other. When child custody cases arise from domestic violence, the battle becomes more wearisome as the aggrieved party would be zealous to win custody of their children and fight for a protective order against the domestic violence abuser. Child custody cases are also emotionally draining especially for children subject to such proceedings as they need to be present in the trial for the court to determine their best interest.
Another difficult case accompanying child custody would be child support. The determination of how much each parent need to contribute to the rearing of the child is lengthy and may require numerous modifications. The bulk of a family law attorney's responsibility in child support cases would be arguing for their clients in modification proceedings.