What is Family Law?

Family law is the area of law that addresses family relationships. It includes creating family relationships and breaking them through divorce and termination of parental rights. Family law addresses adoption, contested custody of children and the child support obligations that result. Because family law is the practice of law that relates to relationships and children, it can be one of the most emotional areas of law. Family lawyers are involved in very personal aspects of their client’s lives. Family law practice may involve any of the following topics:


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.

The rules for a divorce vary depending on the state where it’s filed. While all states allow for no-fault divorce, some states require a period of separation. Most states have a residency requirement in order to prevent parties from shopping for the state with the best law.

Parental Rights & Obligations

The issue of child custody is the most common dispute in family court. As should be expected, parents are extremely concerned with the safety, education, and overall wellbeing of their children. Custody decisions become even more difficult following a divorce or breakup, as parents tend to be distrustful of each other at these times. Regardless of the state of affairs between the parents, judges will always decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.”

In an effort to do what is best for the child, the court can assign legal and physical custody to one parent, or these rights can be shared. A typical schedule would allow the child to spend weekends, summers, and alternating holidays with the non-custodial parent, with both parents having an equal say in major decisions affecting the child. When approving a custody schedule, the court will do what it can to avoid unnecessary disruptions to the child’s life.