Many people, when they imagine a lawyer, can only think of what they see on television. They may think of a criminal defense lawyer or prosecutor strutting around the criminal court with a person’s life on the line. Or else, they think of the personal injury lawyers that advertise during the commercials for those who have been wrongly injured. There’s nothing wrong with this limited understanding of the law and lawyers, of course, but it can lead to serious difficulties for people who don’t realize there are lawyers available to help them with their own legal troubles.
Take, for instance, family law. This is an area of law that many people don’t even know exists, and yet, whenever a family issue becomes a legal issue, there are lawyers available to advise and argue for you. What sort of issues does this include? The family law firm Adams Law Firm lays out the legal options very clearly:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Enforcement of divorce agreements
- Prenuptial Agreements
- Division of assets
- Grandparents’ rights over children
- Child protective services
- Paternity tests and all attending cases
- Modifications of child support, custody, and divorce
- Contempt of court for failing to meet agreements
- Visitation rights
Some of these terms may not even be familiar to those who need a lawyer to represent them. For instance, paternity tests can be used to prove who the father is, using DNA. This can then be used to either get child support for the mother and child, or else for the father to get visitation or custody of the child. In other words, it’s a process that works both ways. Grandparents’ rights aren’t often discussed because they are somewhat limited in most states, but in some situations, a grandparent can win the right to visitation or even custody of their grandchild. As you can see, family law is expansive and involves just about every situation in which a family may find themselves when connected to the law.
So, what does it matter if people don’t know about family law and how a family lawyer can help them? After all, people probably do know that divorce lawyers exist. Surely they’d discover a lawyer exists for their other family law needs as well.
Maybe, but I’m not so certain. You can imagine someone trying to get paternity rights over their child who isn’t aware that a lawyer can help them reach their goal. You can also imagine grandparents who need to get legal custody over their grandchild completely lost in the process and too stressed to look into whether there are lawyer that can help.
There are plenty of situations in which a lack of knowledge could lead to profound injustices for families. A child could be denied time with their father just because the father doesn’t know how to get a lawyer’s assistance. A child could be denied a safer home because the grandparents don’t know how to contact a lawyer to pursue a case. That’s why it is so important to understand what family law is and how it can help you.
Families often have an issue with confirming the paternity of a child, and the parents can either be married, unmarried, separated or divorced. Paternity law involves legal recognition of the biological father of the child. When the paternity is unknown, genetic testing is generally done to establish this paternity. If the alleged father is trying to disprove his paternity, the mother can file a paternity suit against him so that child support can be obtained.
These paternity issues can arise when there are cases involving child support, but they are also important in areas like custody and visitation, health care, adoption, and inheritance. The action to establish paternity is a civil proceeding. This proceeding is usually done when one party contests the paternity allegation. The alleged father may want proof that he is the actual father before he agrees to pay any type of financial support. However, the mother can also contest the father’s paternity, like when another man, other than her husband, attempts to gain custody of or visitation rights with a child that he thinks may be his own child.
In many cases, paternity can be established voluntarily when there is no disagreement among the parents. Also, paternity can be established by circumstantial evidence, like when a married man is presumed to be the father of a baby that was born shortly after the marriage to his wife.
When DNA profiling became available, this was an important breakthrough in discovering the paternity of the child. The DNA testing can establish a father’s paternity with over ninety-nine percent accuracy, and it can be done before the child is born. When paternity is established in this way, the father can be ordered to pay child support for his child.
There are cases where the father is not married to the child’s mother. This father will not likely be awarded custody of the child if the mother is providing good care for that child. However, the father can receive preference over grandparents or prospective adoptive parents.
In the instance where two unmarried persons have a child together, the father needs to sign an ‘Acknowledgement of Paternity’ to be officially declared the father of the child, with all the rights and obligations associated with this role. However, if the father chooses not to sign this document or is prevented from signing it, the court can intervene and enter an order that establishes paternity. This paternity order declares that the child’s father is the legal father.
If there is no official acknowledgment of paternity or the paternity order, the child’s father has no obligation to pay child support. This can cause a financial burden on a single, unmarried mother, so in these types of situations, the paternity order is commonly sought. Likewise, if the father wants to have custody – shared, partial or full – or have visitation rights, he would have to be legally named the father through an acknowledgment of paternity or a paternity order.
Like a lot of family law issues, establishing paternity can be emotionally and financially challenging to all concerned. In these types of cases, it is especially important to seek the counsel of an experienced Family Law attorney. This type of attorney, like Kessler & Solomiany, LLC, can answer your questions and assist you with any court proceedings when required.