27 Apr 7 Definitions of Family Law Terms that You Need to Know
When seeking the legal advice of a family law attorney, there are several key family law terms that you should understand. Having a good understanding of these terms can aid your comprehension of your situation and your legal options. Approaching any situation with preparation and knowledge can ease your anxiety and make the entire experience easier to digest and manage.
1. Family Law
Family law is a specialized practice of law dealing with issues mainly related to the family. This may include marriage, divorce, annulments, domestic violence, custody cases, visitation, alimony, adoption, child abuse, paternity testing and more. Family law attorneys are legal professionals skilled in the practice of family law. They have an in-depth understanding of the law surrounding these types of issues and are best equipped to aid clients who encounter them.
Jurisdiction represents the court’s authority to make a decision about the case brought before them. In order for the court to have the ability to make a decision, they must have jurisdiction in the case. Jurisdiction is especially important in family law cases because custody agreements can only be modified by the jurisdiction in which they were developed. Knowing and understanding what court this is, and under what jurisdiction is important.
Legal separation is defined similarly to how it sounds. It occurs when two married people decide to part but are not yet divorced. They can be legally separated while remaining legally married. This is sometimes a beneficial arrangement when the parties involved are trying to protect financial, legal or other interests. Child custody and support and spousal support can be determined when individuals are legally separated. Under certain circumstances, one of the spouses can apply for “separate maintenance” for help in maintaining their current standard of living.
Custody represents the responsibilities and rights of parents to their minor children. There are several different types of custody arrangements to be considered in a separation or divorce. Joint physical custody is a situation in which both parents share physical custody of the children. Sole physical custody is where one parent takes the full responsibility for the physical location of the children; the other parent may visitation. However, this is not a requirement. Legal custody represents the parents’ responsibilities as to the legal decision-making for their minor children. Legal custody can be granted jointly, solely, or on a rotating basis.
5. Joint Custody Agreement
A joint custody agreement represents a legal document approved by the court that lays out the responsibilities of each parent in caring for their children. Parents are expected to work together to co-parent, and they share physical custody (time-sharing responsibilities) of the children. Joint custody agreements can be drafted by a family law attorney after both parents have come to an agreement about the arrangements. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the issue is then taken to Family Court where the judge will help develop the custody agreement for them.
6. Marital Property
Marital property (or marital estate) represents all of the assets owned (in common) by the married couple. This can include homes, property, vehicles, furniture, appliances and other household goods. The marital property is nearly always an important component in the divorce discussion. It’s important that the marital property is divided fairly and that both parties are agreeable to the arrangement. If both spouses cannot come to an agreement about their divorce settlement agreement, the case will be taken to court where a judge will decide.
It’s important that individuals consider the long-term implications of keeping certain pieces of marital property. For example, a very expensive home that was affordable on two incomes may become unaffordable with only one income. Thinking long term in regards to marital property will ensure that you make the best decision for your future, not one that’s primarily impacted by emotion.
A dissolution is usually referred to as the official end of a marriage. The dissolution is completed through a legal process that results in the termination of the marital rights and the responsibility of spouses to one another.
Learning some of the key family law terms can help you get a better grasp on your own legal situation. Having a better understanding of what is going on can aid you in making informed decisions. Being aware and educated can ease your anxiety of the unknown and prepare you for what is to come in your family law case.