Family Law & What Is Covered?

If you’re unfamiliar with the process of engaging a solicitor, you may not be entirely sure what exactly is covered by the term ‘Family Law’.

Guide to family law

Areas of family law

Family law covers a wide range of legal issues, from separation or divorce to child adoption, custody and guardianship.

Financial settlements are something that family law practitioners will often get involved with, whether this is to divide assets following the break-up of a marriage or civil partnership or concerns child maintenance payments.

Family lawyers may also get involved in cases of domestic violence, or deal with child abuse or neglect.

Other legal matters that may fall under the umbrella of family law include wills and trusts, pensions, inheritance law and even examining whether an insurance claim is valid.

What does a family lawyer do?

A solicitor specialising in family law will deal with all sorts of claims and disputes. Typically, they will initially meet with a potential client to discuss their situation. This first consultation is often offered free of charge, but after this initial meeting, legal fees will generally apply. These should be outlined clearly at this first exchange.

The lawyer dealing with your case will examine it in detail, to establish the facts as well as how the law might be applied in this instance. They would then discuss the case with their client, and may also contact the legal representation of another side – if this applies. Via a process of consultation and the exchanging of correspondence and evidence, they may be able to agree on a settlement without going to court.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then the case may have to go to court. The appropriate evidence, motions – and pleadings, if applicable – would be filed with the court and the case would be argued there for a judge to make a legally-binding decision based on their examination of the evidence submitted.

Minor matters are often dealt with in county courts, but larger, more complex cases might be referred to the family division of the High Court.

A good family lawyer will be experienced in working with a number of different clients from all walks of life. This will include some of society’s most vulnerable people, like the elderly and children. They will also be used to working as part of a team along with other professionals, such as the police, social workers, doctors, psychologists and the welfare authorities. This team will often work together to ensure that the case is brought to a successful conclusion.

Some cases, of course, may be fairly straightforward and can easily be completed by the solicitor themselves. If the task simply involves the drawing up of paperwork, for example, that all parties agree on, then it may not be a time-consuming or expensive case.

What to look for in a family lawyer

The Law Society endorses good family law practitioners by means of its Family Law Accreditation Scheme. This scheme ensures lawyers are rigorously tested before they can become accredited.

For cases that may be very complex, you can look for a lawyer who belongs to the Family Law Advanced Accreditation Scheme.

Make use of the initial consultation to assess the solicitor too. Hopefully, you can find someone who inspires your confidence in them and makes you think you can work well together.