How Family Law Diverges From Other Fields Of Law

Whether you've been to court before or not, you probably have a particular image of what the process is like. Generally, the popular image of a court is based on criminal or civil proceedings. However, the family court can be an entirely different beast to deal with. Let's examine how family law diverges from other areas you might be more familiar with.

No Adversaries

Yes, for folks involved in custody fights or contentious divorces, this might sound a bit odd. However, the family law system isn't conceived with one side facing off against the other like it is elsewhere in the legal system.

Often, no one is accused of wrongdoing. Likewise, even if there are concerns about a person's conduct, the court's goal is to try to resolve disputes in the manner that's most beneficial to all involved.

When a judge looks at a child custody dispute, for example, the goal is to ensure that the child has access to both parents as much as practicable. The court acknowledges that a 50-50 split probably isn't in the cards, and one parent will likely have primary physical custody. However, both parents are encouraged to provide input in the child's upbringing, education, and finances.

Different Standards

Anyone who has ever watched a cop show on TV has likely heard of the standard of "proof beyond a shadow of a doubt." Likewise, you might also be familiar with the civil standard that one side must prove its story is more likely the truth.

None of that applies in family law. When dealing with a case involving a minor, the judge is supposed to determine what is in the child's best interests. Normally, this means access to both parents and close relatives like siblings and grandparents. However, something might interfere enough with the child's best interests to justify a less balanced arrangement. For example, one parent might not be able to pay for a healthy place for the child to stay during custodial visits.

A similar sort of structure shows up in other family law questions. The court typically tries to provide equitable distribution of marital assets at the end of a marriage, for example. Notably, that doesn't mean a split straight down the middle. Instead, the goal is to make sure one ex-partner doesn't become heavily disadvantaged by the divorce. In extreme circumstances, such as an ex-partner with severe physical disabilities, equitable distribution may call for significant financial support from the other through alimony.

To learn more about family law, contact a lawyer.