As the name “Family Lawyers” implies, most of what we do is centered around the law and how it applies to families. While this does include divorce (more formally known as the dissolution of marriage), family lawyers take on custody cases, cases determining the division of assets, child support, and much more. Family lawyers assist with many kinds of cases, because there are many ways that the law applies to families.
When two parents are married, and one of the parents has a child, the state assumes the other parent to legally be that child’s parent. This means that both parents have legal rights and access to the medical records of the child, both parents’ names are listed on the birth certificate, and should the parents divorce, the court knows where to start discussing child support. However, many unmarried couples have children, and therefore, a court must establish parentage. Without establishing parentage, one parent (typically the father), may not have the same legal rights over the child as the other parent.
In some cases, a parent might want DNA evidence confirming that the child is theirs before signing an Acknowledgement of Parentage. Either parent can request an appointment at a certified DNA testing laboratory. However, please note that courts can only use genetic testing results that are obtained through legal proceedings and that private tests cannot be used.
These situations occur when a child, or an adult who is incapable of caring for themselves, needs to have a legal guardian determined for them to be responsible for their financial, medical, and personal decisions. In cases where a child needs a guardian, the court will appoint a guardian to act on their behalf until they are legally an adult. Guardians for adults can vary based upon the need.
Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption:
When a parents rights are terminated, they have no legal rights over the child that other parents would – such as the right to be with their child, making medical, legal, or education decisions on their behalf, etc. Likewise, a parent who’s rights have been terminated will no longer have any legal or financial obligation to the child, including child support.
In voluntary cases, a parent might willingly choose to terminate their parental rights, and in these cases, both parents must agree on the grounds for the termination, the process of the termination, and the ongoing care of the child post termination. This is likely to happen if said parent has life-long mental health conditions that impair their ability to care for a child, long-term substance abuse, or to simplify the adoption process.
There are also involuntary cases where a court might terminate a parents’ rights – which usually only happens in severe cases, such as child abandonment, neglect, or abuse. In these cases, if someone else wishes to adopt a child, a family lawyer might assist with the adoption process. This is unique from traditional adoption, where a lawyer may not be required.
Marriage Licenses for Minors:
Minors as young as sixteen can marry with judicial approval. In such cases, a court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (a guardian) to determine and act on the best interests of the minor. The Guardian At Litem files a report about what they believe to the best interests of the minors, and the court will often make their decisions based on that.
To be married without formal judicial approval, both members entering the marriage contract must be at least eighteen years old.
We hope this was entertaining and informative for you! Should you find yourself in the above situations, or needing assistance with divorce, dividing assets, filing for alimony, or child custody, we would be happy to help you out. Give us a call at (970) 725-6626 to get started.