Family law is an area of the law that deals with family-related issues and domestic relations including:
the nature of marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships;
- issues arising throughout marriage, including spousal abuse, legitimacy, adoption, surrogacy, child abuse, and child abduction
- the termination of the relationship and ancillary matters including divorce, annulment, property settlements, alimony, and parental responsibility orders (in the United States, child custody and visitation, child support and alimony awards).
- Paternity fraud and testing
This list is by no means dispositive of the potential issues that come through the family court system. In many jurisdictions in the United States, the family courts see the most crowded dockets. Litigants representative of all social and economic classes are parties within the system.
Family Law is the body of law that governs domestic issues. The specifics of the law will vary depending on the situation, but generally the aim is to protect each individual’s rights within the context of family. For instance, divorce law will address how property is divided and who will pay spousal support when a married couple separates, while child custody law will help determine what is in the best interest of a child when parents separate. Family-related legal issues can also apply to non-married couples, same-sex couples and other domestic partnerships wherein a legal relationship is established. Domestic violence is another aspect of family law, but one that goes beyond the rest. Domestic violence can have very serious impacts on a victim or victims, but can also subsequently affect other family-related issues such as divorce or child custody, for this reason it will often fall under the umbrella of family law. However, given the violence involved, it can also be considered a criminal offense and thus a matter of criminal law.
Generally, however, family law matters will be dealt with in one of three ways. When it comes to child custody or child support disputes, the most favorable option is for two parents to settle the matter out-of-court and amicably. When this is not possible, the matter will be settled in what is known as Family Court; and a third option is mediation, where couples can handle their disputes with the help of a mediator in order to avoid the stress of court.