I find quite regularly that people are confused by the term “Family Law“. That is why I often prefer to tell people we practice Divorce Law, as it seems clearer. However, even that is not completely accurate.
Family Law refers to legal issues around family relationships, sometimes also referred to as Domestic Relations.
Basically this means divorce and similar issues. This includes property division between separating couples, spousal support (alimony), child support, and parenting arrangements (custody). Sometimes the separating or separated couple is not married, in which case we may also be dealing with issues of paternity and “committed intimate relationship”.
Of course along with divorcing couples, family law lawyers often have to become involved down the road when support or parenting arrangements need to be modified due to changed circumstances. Sometimes we help clients with alternatives to divorce such as a legal separation or even voiding a marriage.
Family Law also includes pre-nuptial agreements (and post-nuptial), though interestingly these are often done by estate planning attorneys as well.
“Pre-nups” fall into both areas of practice as they typically are defining what happens both in the event of divorce or the death of one party. Naturally, family law lawyers tend to focus more on the divorce issues and estate planning lawyers tend to focus more on the estate planning aspects of these agreements.
What Family Law generally does NOT include is other family related issues like estate planning (wills and trusts) and probate, or adoption.
These are considered separate legal areas of practice, though some lawyers certainly do combine more than one area of practice. For instance, some of our family law lawyers do some estate planning as well as family structure planning for non-traditional families.