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What IS Family Law?

When I recently asked a friend what topics might be of interest in a blog post, she told me she wasn’t 100% certain what Family Law means. It was a good reminder that just because I know and use the term, it is not necessarily familiar to everyone.

Family Law deals with the legal aspects of the relationship between spouses or between parent and child. So it includes marriage and living-together, in the form of cohabitation agreements, prenuptial agreements, declaration of informal (or common-law) marriage. It includes the ending of marriage through divorce or annulment or because the marriage is void for some reason. It includes establishment, modification, and enforcement of the rights and duties of a parent toward a child, most notably support and custody. Adoption, whether by a stepparent, other relative, or nonparent, can be the most fun part of the job. Lawyers usually only get involved when there is a change – a child is born or becomes adult, a divorce, or some other big life change that affects the whole family system.

The Texas Family Code, along with court decisions, are the basis for family law. These are the “rules” that are the starting point for deciding what will happen as a family is changing.   There are guidelines for how much should be paid as child support and for when spousal support is appropriate, and for how community property should be divided in divorce. There are presumptions and guidelines for how much time a child will spend with each parent, and for how parents will make decisions for the child. Your lawyer will help you understand how these apply to the very specific facts of YOUR case. The presumptions and guidelines are just that. They are not bright lines. Your lawyer will help you know how far from the presumption or guideline you can go and still have your agreement approved by your judge.

When do I need a Family Lawyer?

  • When I have a child and I’m not married to the other parent.
  • When I want to end a marriage through divorce or annulment.
  • When the other parent is not obeying an existing court order.
  • When I need to change or modify a court order.
  • When I want to adopt a child.
  • When I’m about to get married and need to discuss a prenuptial agreement
  • When I’m living with someone and do not want it to be a common-law marriage.


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