Family Law 101

When property rights, power of attorney and inheritance decisions come into play.

Family law covers a broad range of issues. Whether married or single, parents or grandparents, family law governs what is for many, the most important aspect of our lives.

See these profiles of family law attorneys.

  • Marriage and cohabitation


  • Before tying the knot, some choose to sign on the dotted line. A premarital agreement, a written contract agreed upon prior to marriage, specifies how property will be divided and whether alimony will be paid in the event of a divorce.

    Most laws are set up to protect the rights of married couples: property rights, power of attorney to make healthcare decisions and inheritance. There are no such laws for unmarried couples, who must take steps on their own to create an agreement such as a non-marital or living-together contract to define their legal rights within the relationship.

  • Divorce and child custody


  • For around half of the couples that marry, divorce becomes part of the story. The legal end of a marriage can be done in court with a battery of lawyers, or simply and amicably through divorce mediation. It usually entails the division of marital property.

    If children are involved, the process takes on another dimension. Depending on where you live, child custody can be defined in one of two ways: physical (the responsibility for taking care of the kids) or legal (the right to make decisions that affect a child's interest, such as an option for medical treatment or a school choice). In the states that do not make this distinction, "custody" means the entire world of child-rearing responsibility. Visitation rights are another element of a custody settlement.

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