Family law is a practice area that encompasses the legal issues that face families. These issues include divorce spousal support, child support, custody, division of assets and liabilities due to divorce, adoption, termination of parental rights, paternity, dependency and child neglect, and protection from abuse. This list is not exhaustive and varies depending on jurisdiction. In many jurisdictions in the United States, the family courts see the most crowded dockets. Litigants representative of all social and economic classes are parties within the system.
These cases usually involve parties who are related by blood or marriage, but family law can affect those in more distant or casual relationships as well. Due to the emotionally-charged nature of most family law cases, litigants are strongly advised to retain legal counsel.
Family law mediation, or family mediation, is a type of method used to resolve family disputes. In family mediation, a neutral, third party mediator helps the two parties smooth out their differences and reach agreements on various points of contention. While family mediation can save the parties time and costs associated with trial, the decisions reached may not be legally binding, as the process is somewhat informal.
A divorce may be one of the most complex legal processes that a person encounters in his or her lifetime. The necessary steps in obtaining a divorce will depend on the particular situation of the parties getting the divorce. Family law has become entwined with national debates over the structure of the family, gender bias, and morality. Despite many changes made by state and federal legislators, family law remains a contentious area of U.S. law, generating strong emotions from those who have had to enter the legal process.