What is Family Law?

Family law involves custody, support, and visitation when the parties are not married. Family law typically involves the paternity action, or the establishment of paternity, to determine who the father of a child is. A paternity action is filed in the Circuit Court, notices sent via summons by a sheriff or special process server, and the respondent has an opportunity to appear, answer, and bring whatever defenses he or she has.

The family law aspect of a paternity case is very similar to the divorce case in that the court is still going to have to award custody, support, and visitation, so many of the same issues that we see litigated in a divorce case are also litigated in a family law case. Whoever is going to have custody of the child is going to be responsible for the day-to-day operations and everything that goes on with that child.

The non-custodial party is going to have an obligation to pay child support, and also is going to receive extensive visitation. In some cases, joint custody can be awarded between the parties. There is joint custody for decision-making, whereby each party has a say in the health, education, and religious decisions of the child, and then there is joint physical custody, where the parties actually share equally in the day-to-day upbringing of the child.

For example, we might have a situation where one spouse has four days per week and the other spouse has three days per week, and then they alternate that so that each party is sharing in 50 percent of the support. In those cases, child support would be held in reserve because each party is contributing towards the support of the minor child.

The courts typically do not like to see this arrangement but they will approve it if it’s in the best interest of the child, if the parties can show to the court that they have the ability to navigate this difficult time, and if they can show to the court that they have been exercising under those circumstances for some time and it’s been working out. So a paternity case, family law case has many of the same issues that you will find in a divorce case, except for the division of property, which obviously they have not acquired any property because they are not married. Each person’s property is separate.

If you are having a problem with a paternity case or a visitation case or a support case, I strongly suggest that you hire competent counsel to assist you. Do not try to do this alone. It is not set up for success if you try to do it alone. You are much better off hiring a competent counsel to help guide you through the process.