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:
It used to be that divorce could only be granted when one person did something wrong (i.e. committed adultery, abused their spouse, etc.). However, nowadays most divorces are granted on non-fault, such as separation for a statutorily mandated period of time (usually one or two years). That being said, many states still allow divorces based on fault grounds, such as adultery, domestic violence, cruelty of treatment, and actual or constructive desertion, among others.
2) Custody and Visitation.
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) Child Support.
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) Distribution of Property.
Division of property varies greatly between states. It is important to note that nearly every state has a different method of determining which party receives what property. Community property states treat most property (with the exception of gifts or inheritances) acquired during the marriage as jointly owned by both spouses. The idea is that both spouses theoretically contribute equally to the marriage and family. Each party owns an undivided one-half interest in the property. Non-community property states rely on the principle that property is owned according to title. Under both systems, property is either equally distributed or equitably distributed depending on the laws of that jurisdiction. Equitable distribution is not the same as equal distribution.
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.