When a family attorney explains issues to their clients, a number of topics can come up. Although you're certainly not expected to understand all these ideas like someone with a law license, it's good to have a sense of what the big concepts mean. Here are four such ideas everyone should be aware of.
A common complaint that some people have when they go into court is that they don't understand where the government gets off being involved in the case. In American law, the right of the government to deal with family law issues is grounded in its role as the parens patriae, literally the parent of the nation. When families can't resolve matters in a peaceable, safe, or orderly manner, it is the government's right to act as the parent and intervene.
In cases involving children, the "best interests" standard is used to determine how things will be handled. At its core, this includes a belief that both parents should be involved in a kid's life unless there is an extremely concerning reason that can't be permitted. The best interests standard is applied to a wide range of things in a child's life, including their education, spirituality, access to their family's culture, and time with their siblings.
A married couple's property can be dealt with in one of two possible ways when they divorce. First, there is the community property system that assumes everything they acquired during the marriage belongs to both of them unless there's specific evidence refuting that idea. Second, common law states draw the completely opposite inference that everything is personal property unless clearly stated otherwise, such as getting a joint checking account.
Fundamental fairness is applied in most states and in most cases when dividing up assets and liabilities. A divorce attorney will oftentimes use the term "equitable distribution" to describe this concept. Essentially, the idea is that the economic and medical advantages and disadvantages of each spouse should be taken into account.
For example, if one partner made all the money during the marriage, the court is likely to order that partner to pay a certain amount of spousal support for a particular period of time until they can become financially independent. It's also understood that a partner with a physical or mental disability might require spousal support indefinitely. The same idea applies if one of the ex-spouses had been involved in an injurious accident not long before the divorce.