While the issues contained in any family law case will depend on the specific facts of the case, there are a few general categories into which each of those issues can be placed. Make sure that you seek advice from your family law attorney about the following subjects:
1) Grounds for Divorce.
Most states have various grounds for divorce, not all of them created equal and not all of them very easy to prove. Separation grounds are most common, meaning that the parties have been separated for the statutory period required to obtain a divorce (usually one or two years). Additionally, many states have grounds for divorce based on adultery, cruelty or other domestic violence, desertion, and incarceration of one spouse for a specified period of time.
2) Child custody.
Child custody and visitation issues are often times the most emotional. Many parents do not realize how much separation and, more specifically, their actions during and after separation affects the child or children. Instead of “our child, ” it becomes “my child, ” and instead of “the child’s time with me, ” it becomes “my time with the child. ” These types of selfish thoughts run contrary to the standard in most states for determining child custody and visitation arrangements – the best interest of the child. Factors that the court uses to determine the best interest of the child vary wildly from state to state, but the most important factor is how to give the particular child the best chance of thriving in the future.
3) Support of Children.
Child support is determined pursuant to child support guidelines statutes. The guidelines maintain a presumption of correctness in terms of the amount of support, but this presumption is usually rebuttable. Practically speaking, most child support cases are determined per the guidelines, but the factors that the court takes into account when computing the guidelines also varies. Child support, despite the guidelines, is often at issue as people skew their incomes and various other important numbers.
4) Division of Property.
Property division systems, and the ideas behind them, are perhaps the most variable statutes depending on jurisdiction. A small number of states are community property states, usually meaning that each piece of property (except those acquired by gift or inheritance) is owned 50/50 by each spouse regardless of who actually bought or has title to the property. Non-community property states typically look at property according to title. In both types of systems, property is usually divided equally or equitably. It is important to note that equitable division does not necessarily mean equal division.
5) Spousal Support.
Alimony, or spousal support as it is often called, refers to funds paid from one spouse to the other for the purpose of providing support for living expenses. Spousal support can generally be awarded on a temporary basis through the expiration of the litigation, on a rehabilitative or definite basis through the expiration of some period of time in the future, or on a permanent basis.
6) Fees, Costs, and Suit Money.
Fees associated with even the simplest family law cases can be quite high, and increase exponentially as the case becomes more contested. Attorney fees, court costs, and suit money for expert fees, subpoenas, etc. are many times a hot topic throughout the litigation. More specifically, the question becomes who is going to pay for those fees. Many jurisdictions take the approach that whoever is at fault for the litigation should take at least some responsibility for the payment of fees. Others award fees when one party takes an unreasonable stance in the case. Still others rarely award fees and costs to anyone.
These six issues are the general subjects decided during by a typical family law case, if there is such a thing. Of course, the number of these issues that need to be decided vary depending on the specific facts of the case. Additionally, when and for how long these issues will be decided depend on the jurisdiction and the facts of the case.