Whether a marriage is coming to an end, a couple is interested in adopting a child, or separated spouses are fighting over child custody, lawyers practicing family law can help.
What is Family Law?
Family law is the area of law that deals with family relationships and domestic matters. From marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships to child abuse and abduction, family law covers the legality of creating, breaking, and enforcing family relationships.
In what situations would I need a Family Law attorney?
An attorney who practices family law typically deals with divorce, child custody, child support, and paternity. However, they may also have an opportunity to specialize in adoption, surrogacy, child abuse, emancipation, or other issues not related to divorce.
In the state of Maryland, courts treat married persons as a part of a binding contract. In order to dissolve the contract, the two parties must first be legally married. Exceptions might be made for unlawful marriages when children are involved. In the process of divorce, the court will determine if anyone was at fault in the breakup of the marriage, who should have custody of any children under 18, what visitation arrangements should be made for any children under 18, how much each spouse must pay to support any children under 18, who should get any property acquired during the marriage, and if one spouse must support another spouse after the divorce (alimony). An attorney can represent the interests of either party in order to ensure the terms of the divorce are fair and equitable.
Child Custody & Child Support
In many cases, child custody and child support are settled as a part of the larger divorce case. However, on occasion, the conditions of child custody and child support have to be revisited. In this instance, it is important to consult with an attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved, especially the children.
While many adoption-related services are handled through adoption agencies, attorneys specializing in family law can facilitate private adoptions, either with or without the use of an agency. Because of its complex nature, an adoption is usually vetted by an attorney to ensure the adoptive parents’ parental rights are preserved while protecting the birth mother.
In most cases, paternity cases are filed by a mother in an effort to ensure an absent father pays child support payments. However, biological fathers may also file paternity cases in order to have visitation with their child. Even though paternity is determined by DNA testing, the next steps, whether the filing of a petition for child support payments, or a petition for visitation, must be handled by a family law attorney.
Child In Need of Assistance (CINA)
Proceedings for a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) may happen when a child is under the custody of Child Protective Services due to abuse by a parent or guardian. Family law attorneys may take part in placement hearings, termination of parental rights, or emergency shelter hearings on behalf of the parent or child in question.
Peace & Protective Orders
Peace & Protective Orders are civil orders issued by a judge to order one person to stop committing certain acts against another person. Protective orders are usually filed in domestic relationships – husbands and wives, mothers and children, etc. Peace orders apply to everyone else.
For more information on family law issues or to discuss your case, contact the offices of Bradley MacFee.