Family law is a broad term used to encompass laws dealing with matters of significant impact on family relationships including but not limited to: Divorce, Child Support and Maintenance, Child Custody, Adoption, etc.
Divorce is the most common legal action affecting families. While divorce must legally separate and divide a family and its assets, divorce does not need to destroy the emotional bonds amongst the family members, nor wipe out the family’s lifetime savings. In fact, at Fero & Ingersoll, they believe it should not. Divorce can be contested (often called litigated divorce) or uncontested. Uncontested divorce proceedings are usually handled through mediation processes, such as collaborative divorce.
Mediation is a “meeting of the minds”, so to speak, for which the disputing parties and at least one attorney are brought together to cooperatively discuss all of the issues or just particular issues. The parties form their agreements with the assistance of the mediator. The attorney memorializes the agreements for both parties to review. The final agreements are then presented to a court. The parties need not go to court, nor is their confidential information exposed to open court litigation.
Collaborative divorce proceedings is a mediation process, but one which addresses all of the issues pertaining to a divorce. In a collaborative divorce proceeding, each party has his or her own attorney, and all parties must agree not to litigate in court. Whenever questions arise that cannot be addressed by the parties, an outside expert can assist, such as might be the case in determining the value of a business or shares of stock. People often choose collaborative divorce proceedings when they want to protect parental relationships, their assets, and their privacy.
Child custody and visitation are perhaps the most important areas of family law, because these legal issues affect the children. In the section about child custody and visitation, Fero & Ingersoll addresses the three forms of custody that courts order: temporary custody, physical custody, and legal custody; as well as the initial court order, enforcement of a court order, and modification to change a court order.