April 1, 2012

Family Law Overview

Family law is the term applied to the laws and rules developed regarding family relationships. Family law rules define not only the relationships between members of a family but also between a family and society as a whole. More than any other area of the law, family law reflects the values society shares regarding how people who are related should treat each other. When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of a family law attorney, like those at The Law Offices of G. Wayne Van Bibber & Associates, PLLC, located in Charleston and Hurricane, West Virginia, often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter.

Our family law attorneys can assist you in making and breaking family relationships. Specific areas of representation include marriage and relationship planning, divorce, paternity, child custody, and child support.

Marriage

Marriage is a legal and business union as much as it is a romantic one. Because marriage is a legal and business arrangement, it may be wise to consult with an attorney at The Law Offices of G. Wayne Van Bibber & Associates, PLLC about the advantages of premarital and prenuptial agreements. Many couples find it helpful to work through financial issues and the potential disagreements such issues can create before entering into a marriage.

Divorce

Divorce is a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals. From a legal standpoint, divorce restores an individual’s right to marry someone else. The process also legally divides marital assets and debts and determines the care and custody of the children.

In West Virginia the overwhelming majority of divorces are granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. This is West Virginia’s version of a no fault divorce. Choosing to proceed on irreconcilable difference does not mean you are agreeing on anything other than the reason for the divorce. The parties are still free to contest all issues and present their evidence.

In most divorces, the primary issues to be decided are alimony or spousal support, property division, and, if there are children, child custody, visitation, and child support. When spouses agree on how to resolve these issues, they can usually obtain a divorce quickly. However, in many cases, divorcing spouses have disputes regarding their post-marriage financial arrangements and the care and custody of their children. Property division and alimony are often hotly contested issues in divorce proceedings, but the early advice of a family law attorney may be able to impact the ultimate result favorably.

We have a great resource available to our website vistors who sign up for our monthly newsletter. “Pocket Guide to Divorce in West Virginia”.

Child Custody and Visitation

The care and upbringing of children following divorce is often an ongoing source of conflict for divorcing parents. Custody must address both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody involves how the court will allocate time with the child between the parents. Legal custody involves allocating the decision making authority for the child concerning various topics such as education and medical care.

If the parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement the court determines one for them. In the past, courts routinely gave mothers physical custody and gave fathers visitation rights. Today, the Courts decision is supposed to be gender neutral and the percentage of time a parent receives is based upon the amount of time they spent caring for the child while the family was intact.  The advice and assistance of a family law attorney can help parents to establish child custody and visitation agreements that focus on the best interests of the children.

Child Support

Parents must financially support their children. In West Virginia that obligation usually lasts until the child reaches the age of 18 and has graduated from high school. Child support can last until a child is 20 so long as they are still enrolled in high school and making progress toward a diploma. Physically or mentally handicapped children can receive support for life. 

A parent who fails to remain current on his or her child support obligations faces significant penalties. Every state has a child support enforcement office that works with the family court to suspend professional or business licenses, take away driver and recreational licenses, require payment of future owed sums in advance, or place non-paying parents in jail when child support obligations are overdue. Because several factors will determine the amount of child support, parents can benefit from the advice and involvement of a family law attorney at The Law Offices of G. Wayne Van Bibber & Associates, PLLC when child support issues arise.

For more detailed information, please download our free resource, “Pocket Guide to Divorce in West Virginia” by G. Wayne Van Bibber.

Conclusion

Family relations create a host of legal consequences. Whether you are contemplating marriage or divorce a family law attorney at The Law Offices of G. Wayne Van Bibber & Associates, PLLC can explain the laws that apply to your particular situation and help you to make the best choices for you and your family.


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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.