Family law litigation includes dissolutions of marriage (and annulments and separations), parentage actions, and post-judgment requests for support and/or custody orders. It is traditionally conducted in the Superior Court of the county in which at least one of the participants resides. Each of the litigants presents their positions, usually through counsel, to a Superior Court Judge, usually in open court. Litigators also counsel their clients and negotiate on their behalf. The majority of disputes are resolved by settlement.
In California, the process of commencing a family law action begins with the filing, by one party (the “petitioner”) of a petition, which, when properly “served” (i.e., delivered) on the other party (the “respondent”), gives the court jurisdiction (i.e., the authority) to make decisions.
In a dissolution of marriage, such decisions include determining the value and character of the parties’ property (separate or community), dividing, allocating and distributing that property, providing for the support of one of the parties, enforcing prior orders and, where there are children, determining the timesharing plan, custody matters, and appropriate child support for their children. The Court can also order one of the parties to contribute to the lawyer’s fees of the other party if there is a wide disparity of income or as sanctions where there is abuse of the litigation process.
Family law is both dynamic and complex. A competent family law lawyer must know not only the state divorce laws but also state and federal laws in related fields such as tax, property, estates, retirement and insurance. No area of the law has a greater enduring impact on clients’ lives than that of family law. Representation by an AAML Fellow is representation by one of the most qualified family law lawyers in the country.
AAML Fellows are also able to handle less complex cases on a cost-effective basis. Their experience and concentration in family law allow AAML Fellows to manage their law practices efficiently and to charge reasonable and competitive fees while providing high quality legal representation.