How Family Law Works

how family law works

Family Law is the area of law which covers issues pertaining to marriage, children and divorce. It’s an incredibly personal and emotionally charged area of legal study.

As part of a custody proceeding, judges assess what’s best for the child in terms of education, religion, neighborhood and peer group stability. They may also look at whether each parent can offer sufficient stability within these areas.


Family laws provide guidance for the legal ties that connect married and common-law relationships that function similarly, such as property rights, support obligations and parental responsibilities.

Anxiety-ridden couples face the difficulty of making such an important personal and legal decision with regards to asset distribution and potential alimony payments.

Therefore, family lawyers who specialize in family law must have excellent interpersonal and objectivity skills when handling sensitive matters. Many states are now exploring non-adversarial alternatives to court-based divorce proceedings like family mediation – allowing couples to meet with a neutral third party and negotiate an agreeable settlement between themselves without using traditional litigation proceedings; such processes save both time and money for all involved while alleviating much of the stress that often accompanies such matters; making family mediation an excellent area for attorneys who enjoy working closely with people.


Family law courts must make decisions regarding property division and custody when marriages end, with judges trying to resolve matters as quickly and amicably as possible in order to reduce stress for all involved. Custody determination is made based on what’s best for children’s best interests – an overarching standard which takes into account multiple considerations.

Contrary to civil trials, in which parties present evidence and argue their cases before juries, most family law trials end in bench trials where one judge alone makes the final ruling. While these hearings can be long and drawn-out processes, attorneys usually spend extensive time and energy preparing for these bench trials; often writing trial briefs and prepping witnesses as required for testifying at court hearings.

As people-focused professions, family lawyers must be both compassionate and trustworthy while being detached enough to provide sound legal analysis. Family attorneys must take genuine interest and care in the wellbeing of their clients while at the same time challenging any assumptions made by clients that might otherwise seem reasonable. NYU Law offers an exceptional program in this area featuring some acclaimed professors and scholars among its ranks who are among the premier practitioners nationwide.

Child Custody

Family law attorneys can assist with issues surrounding child custody and visitation. They will explain the legal process to you and represent you if necessary in court; additionally they can connect you with various resources that provide comfort during this trying time.

Courts generally make custody decisions based on what’s best for their child’s wellbeing, taking into account each parent’s lifestyle and stability as well as any past domestic violence history or any preference that the child expresses if old enough to express one.

Family lawyers can also help their clients create parenting plans, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements as well as mediation, which can outline what is expected in the event of divorce and provide peace of mind to both parties involved. They can also assist with mediation which provides couples an informal way of resolving their differences without going to court, often costing less and being more effective – while lawyers can explain all options available and explain each client what benefits and drawbacks may exist with each approach.


Law school offers students an invaluable opportunity to gain practical experience with family legal matters through clinics and externships. At New England Law, our Family Law Clinic allows our students to put theory into action by working directly with clients on filing restraining orders against domestic abusers as well as managing sensitive family matters such as custody arrangements or child support payments.

Judges take several factors into consideration when awarding alimony payments, such as length of marriage, ability to pay by each spouse and levels of joint debt. A judge may also look for evidence of misconduct during the relationship.

If a former spouse fails to pay court-ordered alimony payments, the judge may order their employer to withhold payments directly from their paychecks. It’s often easier for couples to reach private agreements on these issues outside of court using divorce mediation – guided negotiations guided by an impartial third party – which helps preserve property rights while remaining amicable during negotiations and preserve amicable relationships between partners. Likewise child custody matters can often be resolved more swiftly through mediation rather than litigating them in court.

Property Division

Division of Property can be one of the most complex parts of divorce. Working with an experienced family law attorney will help make this process smoother and protect your assets, and can assist in identifying what constitutes separate versus marital property – usually anything owned or inherited prior to marriage, while marital assets usually refers to anything acquired during your marriage such as savings accounts, physical properties or debts acquired during its course.

Property division laws vary by state. Some use community property models while others take an equitable approach. An equal property division state would award each spouse half of all assets while an equitable division state will let a judge decide how best to divide up assets based on what seems fair.

Some individuals attempt to bypass the system by hiding assets from their partner or exploiting loopholes in the laws. It’s always best to remain completely open and transparent during a divorce proceedings; otherwise a judge could reopen your case and change their decision.