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Family Law 101

Posted by Kerry Hagan | Dec 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

Family Law is about people. It is 100% about relationships. My mother and father used to say I was their "special one" and my brother was their "little baby boy"! The reference to me as the special one always carried with it the sort of sneaky possibility that they might be saying I was their problem child — to make sure I didn't get too cocky! The reality is that I grew up in a bubble of family relationships that included grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins — and that bubble shifted, adapted, and moved like a super-sized uterus, to protect, support, and ultimately launch me into adulthood, marriage, and my own family. That's what families do: they incubate and birth children, mold them, and launch them. We all carry that entire process into our here-and-now lives. Like everyone, I bring my childhood and all of my adult professional experiences to the table when I interact with clients needing help with their families.

Sometimes a family needs help from outside their little family bubble. This can involve therapists or the legal system. I'm the only lawyer I know who had a career as a family therapist that's been sandwiched right between two remarkably different careers as a lawyer. So, I know both worlds. For me, Family Law involves two things in most cases: children and property. I've written blog entries about both of these particular areas (see “Best Interests… What's That?” which is about how judges view child custody issues, and Cutting up the Hog,” which is about the way judges look at property division.) The larger context might be a Divorce where the partners are seeking to serve the best interests of their children and make a division of their jointly-acquired property.

Sometimes parents may need to request a Modification Order related to a prior child custody order — due to new and changed circumstances. Sometimes, a parent may have committed acts which are inconsistent with a functional parental relationship, and their rights are subject to termination (“Termination of Parental Rights”) by either voluntary or involuntary court procedures. Or Family Law may involve creating a Guardianship for children, an elderly person, or a person with unique and special needs.

Family Law also involves "happy" situations such as Adoptions — which are lots of fun for everyone in the process — even though they actually involve lots of work.

In other situations, Family Law may be about protecting family members from domestic violence by obtaining a Protective Order from a judge to help family members protect themselves from harm. 

Defining the rights of persons before marriage can also involve agreements related to families such as Premarital Agreements. And then there are Cohabitation Agreements between persons who have no desire to be married but they do want to clearly define their property and financial interests. There is also a document we can prepare called a Joint Tenancy Agreement that relates to how people own real estate, land, and homes. 

When talking about Family Law, these are the broad categories in which I think. This post doesn't cover every topic, fully and completely, as related to family law. But it gives you an overview of the broad categories involved. That's why I called it Family Law 101.

About the Author

Kerry Hagan

Attorney

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