When a couple marries, they probably don't think about speaking with an attorney first. Yes, every state has laws governing the process, but it's more of an administrative issue than anything else. In Ohio, the rule in most cases is that you must go to the local probate court and apply.
Nor is state approval usually required to start a family. But after that, the broad scope of family law issues increases significantly. Depending on the circumstances of a given case, seeking the help of an experienced attorney is essential.
What family law covers
Every state's laws differ, but nearly all address the following subjects in some way.
- Marriage and Cohabitation: Gender used to be a factor. Not so much today. However, minimum age requirements remain in most states.
- Divorce and Spousal Support: Whether you divorce, seek annulment, a legal separation or other form of dissolution of marriage, it must be done by court order.
- Child Custody and Support: The courts have an obligation to protect a child's best interests if parents divorce. The same holds true when a child's parents aren't married. In both cases, plans for child support and visitation will be subject to court approval.
- Adoption and Foster Care: Children's best interests also prompt state intercession if there is suspicion of neglect at home, or if a child is to be placed in a foster situation. Family court action could be separate from what happens in criminal proceedings.
- Parental Liability and Emancipation: The actions of your child could leave you liable as a parent, requiring legal counsel. If a minor is of an age and maturity to live on his or her own. Emancipation might be sought from a court.
- Reproductive Rights: If something is considered outside normal biological processes, such as abortion, assisted reproduction or conception, laws apply. They change often, too.
Ensuring compliance with the law or being confident that you are protecting your rights and interests are two more reasons why, in many cases, consulting a family law attorney makes sense.