Family Law Questions

By Matthew MacKenzie

Family law issues vary and involve everything from adoption to divorce. Most common family law questions relate to issues leading up to and following divorce, including child support, legal separation and dissolution proceedings. Even adoption and paternity issues need to be resolved in court.

How Do I File For Divorce?

Filing for divorce requires that the petitioner, the person seeking the divorce, file a Petition for Dissolution with the local county clerk's office and serve a copy of the petition to the respondent, the other party. Once the respondent answers and provides all information requested, he may also file discovery documentation requesting information from the petitioner. Typically, the court will order a mediation in which such issues as property settlement, child custody and financial support can be resolved. If this action is unsuccessful, the matter may proceed to trial. The judge will then determine the outcome and will enter a Final Decree for Dissolution.

What Are the Legal Issues Regarding Adoption?

All adoption proceedings must go through the legal process and must be finalized in court by a judge. Adopting a child gives the adoptive person or couple the same rights as the biological parents. Thus, the judge in an adoption proceeding will typically review a number of factors. After the Petition for Adoption is filed with the court, home visits, background checks and counseling sessions are often ordered by the court to determine whether the new adoptive parents are fit to adopt the child. At the final adoptive hearing, the judge may interview the adoptive parents, will review all findings and research and will make a decision whether to grant the petition.

How are Child Support Amounts Changed?

Regardless of whether two parents have made oral agreements regarding child support amounts, the amount the noncustodial parent must pay is determined by the child support order. Modifying the child support order is the only legal way to change the financial obligations. There are many reasons why an order may be modified by the judge. The order is typically modified when either parent's income suddenly raises or drops substantially. Without the judge approving the modification, the noncustodial parent is legally bound to her previous financial obligations in the order.

What is Legal Separation?

A legal separation is a formal judgment issued by the court. Essentially, it states that both parties have worked out all issues regarding a dissolved marriage, such as child support obligations, property settlement and child custody issues, while still remaining legally married. Most times, when a couple is legally separated, they are living apart and acting as a divorced couple. This option is typically utilized when couples want to stay legally married for tax, religious and moral reasons.

What is a Paternity Suit?

A paternity suit is typically brought in court by a mother seeking to prove and name the biological father of her child. However, men can bring a a paternity suit in order to relieve physical or financial obligations of a child if he believes he is not the biological father. During the course of a paternity suit, the court will order DNA testing. Once DNA is taken, and evidence confirms the father, the petitioner's requests for child support or custody may be awarded by the judge.

About the Author

Matthew MacKenzie has been a writer for over eight years. He attended the University of Montana and majored in political science. Mackenzie received his Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University and is a licensed lawyer. His work has been published on various websites.