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Are Family Law and Divorce Law the Same?
While the terms “family law attorney” and
“divorce attorney” are often used synonymously, divorce
is now considered to be just one part of the practice of family
law. In Cook County, and other court systems, divorce and parentage
cases used to be handled by separate judges in separate parts of
the building. While once considered to be two discrete areas of law
and practice, over time the judiciary recognize that while not
exactly the same, these cases were close enough in fact and law
that they should be combined into one area of the courthouse under
the heading of Domestic Relations. The blending of divorce and
parentage cases in many ways created the more general header of
“family law attorney” versus “divorce
attorney”, as it implied that an attorney working in family
law was also knowledgeable about parentage cases, child support
cases, grandparent visitations, and other cases outside the
boundaries of divorce.
For some attorneys, family law also goes beyond the area of
practice most commonly known as “domestic relations” and
may also include guardianships, adoptions, name changes, and other
cases related to families that are heard in different court
divisions. It is critical to know that not every lawyer who
practices family law focuses on the exact same areas. More
importantly, when hiring an attorney, you will want to be sure
you have found one who works on your specific kind of case to
ensure you have knowledgeable and experienced legal representation
when going forward with your case.
What Areas of Law Do Family Law Attorneys Handle?
Beyond divorce, family law also encompasses parentages cases,
which involve unmarried parents in litigation regarding their
children, and can also include cases for formerly married couples,
now divorced, who are seeking to enforce their marital settlement
and parenting agreement or change them in post-decree cases. Family
can also include cases where a grandparent is seeking visitation
rights to their grandchild(ren), or cases to establish child
support. In short, the practice of family law goes well beyond just
the issue of divorce.
Some attorneys, like the attorneys in our firm, also practice some areas of law
pertaining to families, but that are considered to be outside of
the areas of “domestic relations”. A good example of this
would be guardianships. While most would consider
guardianships to be an area of family law, guardianships are
actually part of the Probate court. Adoptions and name changes are handled by
still another division of the court, as they are considered to be a
separate process from Domestic Relations, as well, even though
adoption is most certainly a “family” matter, and a name
change can be as well.
What Should I Look for When Selecting An Attorney?
When selecting an attorney, it is important to look at your case
to first confirm what kind of case you have and confirm with the
attorney that they specifically handle your kind of case. While
most “family law” or “divorce” attorneys will
say they handle divorce and parentage cases, you will need to
inquire specifically about what kinds of cases they handle,
particularly if you think your case falls outside of those two main
practice areas of divorce and parentage actions.
Likewise, if yours is a parentage case, you want to be sure you
have a family law attorney who understands the nuances, and
differences, between a divorce case and a parentage case. While
many of the procedures and parts of the process are similar, they
are not identical. An experienced family law attorney will know the
differences when it comes to procedures and to drafting your
Further, you want to retain an attorney who can speak to
experience with your kind of case, and the specific issues that you
are dealing with, as part of their practice. When going through an
attorney consultation, confirm your needs and
what you should be looking for. If you are not married to the other
parent of your child or your situation falls into some other legal
category besides divorce, you will want to be sure you retain an
attorney familiar with parentage cases and the other practice areas
beyond divorce. If the attorney you are talking to refers to
themselves explicitly as a “divorce” or
“matrimonial” attorney, it is possible they may not be
the best attorney for you as their designation indicate their
specialty, and area of interest, which is exclusively divorce and
issues surrounding marriage.
If your case falls beyond the general boundaries of domestic
relations into some of the other areas of law related to
guardianships or adoptions, be sure that the attorney has specific
experience in those divisions of the judiciary and their specific
procedures and practices. You might find that an attorney who
advertises themselves as a divorce or matrimonial attorney might
practice exclusively within this niche, whereas a family law attorney may practice a wider range
of cases that touch upon various aspects of family. The most
important thing in selecting an attorney for your case is to be
sure that whatever their title, the attorney you are hiring has
specific knowledge of and experience in your kind of case to be
sure they can adequately guide you through the legal process and
help you obtain your desired result.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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