At Lawyer Legion we created an online directory of family law attorneys (often called "matrimonial lawyers"). These lawyers help clients solve a wide variety of legal problem impacting the family. You can use our attorney directory to find a matrimonial law attorney by state, city, or zip code.
The profiles have information on the attorney's membership and leadership in legal organizations related to family law, speaking engagements at quality CLE seminars, and participation in specialty certification programs.
Family Law Information Center
Divorce is the most common cause of people's interaction with the family court system. It is both a reason that people go to family court and a starting point for many other family law issues.
All states have now implemented no-fault divorce. Before no-fault divorce, the party seeking a divorce would have to prove that the divorce was legally necessary. Now, if both parties consent to the divorce, the court will grant the divorce, usually after a certain amount of time. People can still seek an at-fault divorce if issues like adultery and domestic violence are present.
Even if there is fault in the dissolution of marriage, in most cases the divorce or matrimonial lawyer will suggest a no-fault divorce, simply because they tend to be simpler, and since fault is rarely a consideration in the division of the marital estate.
There are two basic ways that states approach the division of property. In most states, the marital estate consists only of property that is acquired during the marriage. The most common method is called "equitable distribution." Under equitable distribution, the court uses a variety of factors, set by law, in order to make a a determination of who gets what after a divorce.
Factors depend on the specific jurisdiction, but often include the duration of the marriage, the income of each spouse, the potential career opportunities of each spouse and the contributions of each spouse to the appreciation, preservation and acquisition of marital property.
Fault, however, is rarely an factor that may be considered in the equitable distribution of the marital estate, which is another reason lawyers advise for divorcing couples to seek a no-fault divorce. Fault can often play a role in alimony and spousal support.
Nine states practice the community property doctrine of property division: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In community property states, each spouse is presumed to have a 50 percent ownership interest in all marital property. Some states have slight variations on this, but community property states tend to have a more equal distribution after divorce.
Couples seeking an amicable divorce, or friendly divorce, can hire a collaborative lawyer. During a collaborative divorce, the two parties work out an agreement for how property will be divided. Most courts will honor such an agreement. Divorcing couples can also seek mediation to avoid painful litigation. Divorce Mediation works in a similar manner to collaborative divorce, with the two parties working out an agreement for property division.
Most states will honor any prenuptial agreements or marital agreements in property division. The standard is usually whether there was a fair and reasonable disclosure of assets, and no coercion involved in the signing of the agreement.
Family law also governs the parent-child relationship.
- Child Custody: Custody decisions include physical custody, or who has actual possession of the child, and legal custody, or who has the right to make decisions for the child. Custody can be sole, shared, primary, partial or supervised. Each state has a variety of factors courts may use in making custody decisions, but the overarching consideration is generally the "best interests of the child." Custody decisions can usually be modified.
Find a child custody lawyer.
- Child Visitation: Child visitation is one element of child custody that is frequently contentious. A parent may seek visitation rights with his or her child. If the parent has a negative history, however, the court may order than the visitation be supervised. In many states, grandparents and other family members may seek visitation rights with a child.
Find a child visitation lawyer.
- Child Support: The non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent. This area can frequently be litigated when the non-custodial parents fails or refuses to pay, or when significant life changes lead to a need for modification of the child support order.
Find a child support lawyer.
- Adoption Law: Adoption can occur in widely varying circumstances, from aspiring parents seeking to adopt a child they have never seen from around the world to a stepparent or grandparent child wanting legal parental status of a child they have risen as their own.
Though many attorneys exclusively practice family law, some attorneys have sought to become certified as specialists in the family law field. Certified family specialists have met rigorous standards to earn the achievement.
- National Board of Legal Specialty Certification: The NBLSC is accredited by the American Bar Association to certify attorneys in family law trial advocacy. To become certified, family lawyers must have devoted at least 30 percent of their practice to family law and meet the Board's involvement requirements.
Find a nationally certified family law trial attorney.
- State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization: Arizona lawyers may become certified in family law by the State Bar. At least 50 to 70 percent of their practice must be devoted to family law, they must meet experience requirements and pass a written test.
- State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization: The State Bar certifies California lawyers as family law specialists. Attorneys must practice for five years, dedicate at least 25 percent of their practice to criminal defense, and pass a test, among other requirements.
- Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education: Florida attorney can become certified by the Florida Bar as specialists in family and marital law. They must meet minimum experience and education requirements and pass an exam.
- Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization: Louisiana lawyers may become certified in family law. To become certified, attorneys must show they meet certain experience and education requirements and must pass a written test.
- New Jersey Board on Attorney Certification: The Board on Attorney Certification certified New Jersey attorneys in matrimonial law. Lawyers must show substantial involvement and experience, provide references, and pass a test.
- New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization: New Mexico lawyers may be certified in family law by the Board of Legal Specialization. Attorneys must meet requirements of involvement in the field and minimum experience, and must pass a written exam.
- North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization: North Carolina family lawyers may be certified by the Board of Legal Specialization. Attorneys must meet requirements for experience and education and pass an exam.
- Ohio State Bar Association: The State Bar Association can certify lawyers as family relations law specialists in Ohio. Lawyers must meet experience and involvement requirements, pass a written exam and meet other criteria.
- Texas Board of Legal Specialization: Attorneys in Texas may be certified by TBLS as family lawyers. Attorneys must show substantial involvement and experience, provide references from other lawyers and pass an exam.
Family matters can become bitter disputes, so having a knowledgeable attorney is important. Family lawyers who have been board-certified have shown that they meet certain requirements so that an independent third party has deemed them worthy of being able to advertise as a specialists.
Additionally, family lawyers who are members of organizations, like the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, often have access to resources and high quality continuing legal education. Family law attorneys who handle cases with an international issue might also belong to the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts: This association is an organization of family law professionals, including non-lawyers. It is dedicated to promoting a collaborative approach to family law.
Lambda Legal: This organization is advocates for equal marriage and ensuring all families have access to protections in family law.
Finding the Right Family Law Attorney
At Lawyer Legion we created our directory of family law attorneys (often called "matrimonial lawyers") to help the public find a qualified attorney in a variety of practice areas. We organize attorneys according to the focus of their legal practice, their membership and leadership in organizations, and other objective criteria.