Family law is a legal practice area which focuses on issues related to family issues and relationships. Most family law attorneys in California represent their clients in divorce and other issues related to divorce. However, family law is relatively broad and deals with issues related to:
- Child custody
- Divorce and annulment
- Property settlements
- Financial settlements
Other types of family law include:
- Juvenile law
- Domestic violence
- Child care and protection
- Pre-nuptial agreements
While some family law attorneys usually decide to specialize, others opt to enjoy the variety that the broader practice area provides.
What is a Family Law Attorney?
Family law attorneys are legal professionals who specialize in matters to do with family law and legal matters related to family. A lawyer who represents the state in local criminal cases is referred to as a Prosecuting, County, or District Attorney. However, the duty of a deputy district attorney is to help the district attorney to screen cases for criminal prosecution, ensure victims of criminal offenses receive the restitution or counseling they require, and prepare and enter criminal pleas arrangements. Family law attorneys act as mediators in cases where families are in disagreement and represent complainants in family conflicts which are presented in court. Some family law lawyers also deal with related practice areas such as, estate planning, immigration and naturalization law, and mediation and collaborative law. As implied, family lawyers deal with matters that impact on families, and they seek to obtain the best interests of the parties involved. Because family law problems affect people very deeply, having a trusted legal professional helps ensure that individuals are effectively represented and protected in a legal process.
What Does a Family Lawyer Do?
These attorneys have many duties which include:
- Advising a variety of clients such as the elderly and children on their rights.
- Drafting and handling court petitions, wills, prenuptial agreements, custody agreements, property agreements, and other documents.
- Researching historic cases which resemble their cases.
- Representing their clients in family court proceedings.
- Handling divorce issues and acting as a mediator who helps the conflicted parties to approach the issue rationally and within the law and if possible, without going to court.
- Helping clients to administer an estate as stated by the deceased in a will.
- Acting as mediators and arbitrators in family disagreements.
- Effectively and empathetically dealing with emotionally unpredictable situations.
- Liaising with other professionals such as psychologists, police officers, social workers, and doctors.
What is the Difference Between a Family Law Attorney and a Divorce Attorney?
A family law attorney takes on more than divorce cases while a divorce attorney practices a subset of family law. As such, a divorce lawyer is a family lawyer who specializes in divorce. Most lawyers who practice family law deal with divorce cases, and divorce is a major area of work that a family law attorney deals with. Divorce often accompanies custody issues, with a client seeking sole custody of a child. Attorneys must therefore examine and effectively apply parental right laws to ensure the child is placed with a suitable parent. It is however important to note that there is no such thing as a “military divorce” or a “military divorce lawyer”. The idea of a “military divorce” is simply used to describe a divorce in which one or both spouses are military personnel and as such, their divorce might present some unique military issues. The term “military divorce lawyer” is thus usually applied to family law layers who have specialized in military knowledge. Military divorces do not require special proceedings but instead take place in civilian rather than military courts and are handled by the same judges and magistrates who preside over civilian family law matters. It is not easy to hire an attorney for a military divorce because although an attorney might claim to know about the military, they might not be familiar with relevant and current military laws and how they apply to divorce. The best option in selecting the best attorney in such a case is through word of mouth and the testimonials of friends who loved their attorneys.
Hot to Choose a Good Family Lawyer in California
Whether an individual is looking for a divorce or wants to learn about how to enforce a child support order, it is in their best interests to look for the best family law attorney in California who will help them achieve their goals. The first step is to research and find a firm of lawyers who are committed to their clients and who seek their clients’ best interests. The potential client should also ask themselves if they are comfortable telling their family law attorney personal information. This is because the more information the lawyer has, the more he will be able to make the right judgment for the way forward and avoid pitfalls or dangerous surprises that might harm the client’s plea.
It is also important to determine if the lawyer seems interested in solving your problem. The ability to provide solutions is essential in family law practice. To some extent, lawyers are professional problem-solvers. Clients transfer their burdens to the attorneys, so the attorneys must focus on obtaining the best practical outcome. Therefore, when selecting an attorney, ensure that they can correctly identify what the issues and problems are and, most importantly, the solutions they offer.
A critical factor in the selection process is ensuring that the attorney’s credentials are accurate. Ask questions or do research on the amount of time they have been in practice and if they have previously worked on cases similar to yours. Their knowledge on similar cases should give you the confidence that they will be able to make suitable references and comparisons to your case in order to obtain an optimal solution. Also, the lawyer’s office should be conveniently located so that you can reach them at any time for consultations or questions when necessary.
How Much Does a Family Law Attorney Cost in California?
The cost of a family law attorney will usually vary based on various factors, and it helps to understand them before you hire someone to represent you. The attorneys set their own prices for their services based on market forces and the type of clients they deal with. You will find that experienced lawyers such as Certified Family Law Specialists might charge a higher hourly fee, and the high cost provides added value because the lawyers spend considerable time and energy in staying current with family law and related practice areas. Attorneys will therefore charge based on the amount of time they spend on the case. A flat fee is an overall charge that is paid upfront and it will cover the entire representation process. In most cases, experienced family law attorneys will require a retainer from their clients before they start working on a case, and the retainer is usually based on the perceived complexity of the case. When calculating attorney fees, it is also important to remember that there are additional expenses such as:
- Filing fees
- Travel and transportation charges, within reason
- Expert witness and court reported charges
Always discuss money matters with the attorney beforehand to ensure you are on the same page and will not be surprised when presented with the bill.
Family conflicts can be painful and taxing, so it is important for clients to hire qualified attorneys with experience in successful family law cases. Attorneys practicing family law must have the requisite credentials, mental, and emotional maturity to deal with the difficult family cases which they encounter. A client should be diligent in their search to ensure they hire someone with their best interests at heart and who will provide an optimal solution.