JIWLP Legal Information

JIWLP is an online resource dedicated to providing prospective lawyers and those seeking to enter the legal profession with general information, guidance and direction on starting a legal career, details about a variety of legal specialties as well as assistance with finding professional associations.

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Family Lawyers - Specializing in Marriage Law

Family lawyers cover a wide range of legal areas: marriage law, divorce, child custody, child support, adoption, living together, domestic partnerships, reproductive rights, emancipation of minors, domestic violence, paternity, parental rights and liability, guardianship, foster care, child abuse, surrogacy and artificial conception. For this reason, most Family lawyers choose a specific area in which they specialize.

Marriage Law Specialty

Marriage Law provides information for individuals planning a wedding, practical guidance on marriage related issues including:

  • Marriage rights
  • Marriage benefits
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Community property rights
  • Marrying a foreign spouse
  • Common law marriage
  • State marriage license requirements
  • Name changes after marriage

Checklists and other resources to assist clients through the marriage process may be obtained by a marriage lawyer, ensuring that the marriage meets all local and national requirements. Since marriage is a legally binding contract where two individuals agree to care for each other financially and in other ways, legal requirements which differ from state to state must be met.

Financial problems are still the number one cause of divorce. Working with partners considering marriage, a Family Lawyer can help the couple avoid many of the financial pitfalls. The lawyer can bring out different expectations each person has regarding their lifestyle and how their money might be spent. The following questions should be considered:

  • What are essential expenses and what money will be discretionary?
  • Which expenses will be shared? What expenses will each one pay individually?
  • When should a bank account be kept separate and which ones should be made joint?
  • If a major disparity in income exists, who should contribute what percentages?

Planning out anticipated future expenses, setting savings goals and estimated timelines to save for them helps avoid later problems. Purchasing a home, having children, saving for college, preparing for retirement, vacation travel, home improvements, remodeling and redecorating at a later date, and purchasing new cars will all have to be considered at some point.

Credit card companies or store accounts hold both parties responsible for paying off the accounts even if only one of them made the purchases and the other disapproved. In community property states, a spouse may be responsible for all debts incurred by the other. Any debt that is considered a family expense can also make both parties liable for repayment. Grocery purchases or medical expenses for a child make the husband liable for payment since these are expenses for the benefit of the family as a whole.

Considerations in Divorce Cases

Divorce terminates the partnership between spouses along with property shared by the couple. Almost everything purchased after the marriage is divided upon divorce. What happens to shared debts, locating hidden assets, what happens to the home, effects on shared debts, and the effect on insurance policies may all be discusses with the Family Lawyer.

Prenuptial Agreements

Having established a prenuptial agreement protects both individuals when it comes to divorce. It establishes rights and responsibilities regarding income and property. Marital (community) property will be separated evenly in a divorce, to avoid the court making this decision for an individual a prenuptial agreement is a must. It can keep family heirlooms, business properties, etc. within the birth family; and secure estate plans, living trusts, and wills.

A prenuptial agreement commonly includes:

  • Specifications for separating businesses
  • Allocate retirement benefits
  • Management of household bills and expenses
  • Investments such as house(s) or business properties and income
  • Management of credit card expenditures and payments
  • Distribution of property to the survivor including life insurance (in the event of death)
  • Using mediation or arbitration to settle any disagreements

A prenuptial agreement is restricted by the laws of the state as to what can and cannot be included. Most states will not allow provisions of anything illegal, or issues regarding child support or child custody (the courts have this authority.) It cannot waive the rights of a spouse to alimony in most states; cannot offer a financial incentive in favor of divorce; and cannot establish rules regarding personal matters, only financially based issues. Inclusion of any of these items may cause the judge to strike it down, voiding the entire prenuptial agreement.

All these topics are part of Marital Family Law only. It makes it easy to see why Family Lawyers tend to choose one area in which to specialize.