Family law is not like other areas of law. Family law deals with the legal issues surrounding your closest relationships – those with your family. To help family law clients appropriately, a family lawyer cannot look at his or her clients’ cases as situations to “win,” but instead, he or she must view the legal process as a way to reach arrangements that are in all involved parties’ best interests.
Family law is more than just divorces, though family lawyers certainly do handle divorce cases. Other issues handled in family court primarily have to do with the relationships between parents and their children, with the ultimate goal of protecting children from harm and ensuring that they receive the physical, emotional, and financial support they need from their parents.
Our team works with individuals who are facing the following family law cases:
It is not uncommon to face two or more of these issues at once. For example, a divorcing couple might also have to establish a child custody order, establish a parenting plan, and work through the process of dividing their marital assets.
In family court, there is a greater emphasis on negotiation than there is in other legal areas, like business law and criminal law. This is perhaps most evident in divorces, where couples have the option to negotiate their own divorce settlements or work with divorce mediators to reach appropriate settlements, rather than having the court divide their assets and determine the other orders that will be part of their divorces.
Your goals in court will depend on the type of case you are pursuing. For example, if you are working through a divorce, your goals might include retaining your marital home and establishing an alimony order that covers your financial needs until you can realistically become self-sufficient. If you are drafting a prenuptial agreement, your goal might be to ensure that the small business you established years before meeting your partner remains separate property, rather than becoming marital property and thus subject to division in a divorce. In Wisconsin, marital assets are usually divided between the couple 50/50 under the doctrine of community property. In many other states, assets are divided equitably instead, which means they are divided according to what the court deems appropriate based on the individuals’ needs.
With many types of family law case, the court considers a variety of factors when making its determinations. For example, the court considers the following when creating a parenting plan:
For an alimony order, the court considers relevant factors about the couple’s lifestyle and individual financial needs, like each partner’s current income and assets and each partner’s future earning capacity.
Although negotiation and appropriate arrangements that are in all parties’ interest are the primary goals in family court, do not take this to mean that your lawyer will not work hard on your behalf. Your lawyer’s first responsibility is to you, his or her client. In this role, he or she will advise you about your rights and legal options in all situations. This might mean taking a drug test to prove that you are not abusing illegal substances or gathering evidence to prove to the court that you are as much of a caregiver to your child as your former partner and thus, you should have an equal amount of parenting time.
The difference between family law and other areas of law is that your lawyer’s advocacy is meant to protect your rights and promote your interests while seeking arrangements that fit all involved parties’ needs.
When you are negotiating your divorce or another family law order, your lawyer will equip you to negotiate effectively by explaining all applicable laws to you. He or she can also advise you about how to acquire and use relevant evidence to support your positions in negotiation and in court.
Your lawyer is also there to protect you. When you are facing false accusations, like an accusation of child abuse or an accusation that you used marital funds to pay for an affair partner’s apartment, your lawyer can help you use the evidence you have to prove your innocence to the court. Conversely, when you feel your spouse is behaving illegally or inappropriately, your lawyer can work with you to obtain relevant evidence to support your claim and build an effective case against your former partner. This could be necessary if you suspect he or she is hiding assets to keep them from being divided or that he or she is not fit to parent your children.
When you are facing family difficulties, you need to work with an experienced Fox Valley family law attorney to work the issue out in court. Family law is quite different from other areas of law, so be sure to work with a lawyer who can guide you through the challenges and legal nuances that come with this legal territory. To get started on your case with a member of our team, contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your initial legal consultation in our office.