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Category:Family Law

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About Family Law

Family law is a body of law encompassing statutes, court decisions, and provisions of the federal and state constitutions that relate to family relationships, rights, duties, and finances. Common categories of family law include adoption, child custody, child support, community property, divorce and dissolution, guardianship, marriage and spousal support. The law relating to family disputes and obligations has grown dramatically since the 1970s, as legislators and judges have reexamined and redefined legal relationships surrounding divorce and child support and custody laws.

Common Family Law Topics

Family law judges preside over all these areas of the law. Courts typically are busiest with proceedings regarding divorce property settlement and child custody and support laws. Such issues tend to be the most trying matters for litigants and the courts. With the divorce rate as high as 60% in states like California, naturally family court cases usually consist of divorce proceedings. Television shows like Divorce Court reflect a large percentage of what Americans experience as part of matrimony. As the law evolves, innovative concepts such as collaborative divorce permeate our legal system as an alternative to the adversarial system.

Constitutional Issues Concerning Family law

Family law also incorporates a broader scheme of legal jurisprudence. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the "liberty" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to include the right to privacy. This right to privacy encompasses decisions about child rearing, procreating, marriage and termination of medical treatment. Other examples of historical family law issues affecting society include the right to die, right to privacy, right to abortion, and many more constitutional liberties. Landmark Supreme Court decisions regarding these rights include Roe v. Wade, Meyer v. Nebraska, and many other decisions.

Other Areas of Family Law

Family law is also integrated into other areas of law, including employment law and estate planning. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act is federal law that allows covered employees to take extended time away from work to handle certain family or medical matters. This Act gives employees the opportunity to take maternity leave or paternity leave as their family's needs change. Estate planning provides information on the legal steps you can take to ensure that your final property and health care wishes are honored, and that loved ones are provided for in your absence. The typical estate plan will designate a family member to execute the plan set forth by the will, trust, or other legal instrument authored by the deceased.

Family law has always been 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 enter the legal process.

Additional Resources

Family Law Resources on FindLaw


FindLaw Lawyer Directory: Family Law Attorneys

More Family Law Attorneys »

Contributors

FindLaw Brian, FindLaw Nira, FindLaw Sarah

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