“Family law” is the name given to the branch of civil law that a family lawyer or a family attorney covers regarding the legal relationships among family members, including husbands, wives, parents, children and domestic partners.
A family law attorney or lawyer deals with the family law relationships which encompass adoption, child custody, visitation rights, domestic violence, divorce, juvenile dependency and delinquency, marital property rights, support obligations and paternity.
The term “divorce” refers to the dissolution or the legal end of a marriage. Arkansas has certain requirements governing when a divorce may be granted, including a residency in the state and county and “grounds” or reasons for the divorce.
“Fault.” Arkansas is a fault-based state. In other words, one party must have greater grounds for divorce than the other in a contested divorce. Some states, like California, have no-fault divorces which only require a separation. Most divorces in Arkansas are uncontested, which means both parties understand that a divorce is inevitable and decline to air out their dirty laundry in court. The most common ground in Arkansas is “general indignities,” which is similar to what people refer to as “irreconcilable differences” and “irretrievable breakdown”. There are specific requirements regarding the division of property, alimony or spousal support, child custody and child support.
“Child custody” refers to custodial awards or determinations involving a minor child. These determinations involve who has the right to make decisions about the child, or legal custody, including decisions about education, religion, medical issues and discipline, as well as where the child will live, or physical custody. With “sole custody”, you alone have legal and physical custody of your child. In a “joint custody” arrangement, you and your ex-spouse share legal and/or physical child custody. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, a court will likely make a child custody decision based on the “best interests of your child”.
“Adoption law” creates the legal relationship of parent and child between persons who are not each other’s biological parent or child. There are also different types of a legal adoption. But whether you decide to go through an adoption agency or to adopt from a private person, a decree of adoption usually means that the legal relationship of the adopted child is completely severed with its biological parents and family. For all legal purposes, adopted children become the children of their adoptive parents.
“Child support” payment is a court-ordered amount that the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to cover a proportionate amount of the child’s expenses, including housing and utilities, food, clothing, education expenses and other costs. Both parents have an obligation to support their children, both before and after a divorce. State laws differ greatly as to how courts calculate child support payment, and child support orders may be modified only by another court order. Courts in Arkansas generally follow the Arkansas Child Support Guidelines set out by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Complete Child Support information is contained in Administrative Order No. 10, which is also available on the Supreme Court Website.
The amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay is determined by finding the average weekly take home pay and the number of children, then plotting those two figures on the chart.
The court must follow the chart unless one parent or the other can show compelling reasons why the court should deviate upward or downward from the amount found by plotting the income and number of dependents.
Average weekly take home pay is determined by first determining the gross amount of income per pay period and subtracting federal and state tax deductions and the cost of health insurance for the dependents.
“Paternity” is the legal acknowledgment of a parental relationship between a father and his child. A child born to a wife during a marriage is legally presumed to be the husband’s child, but this presumption can be rebutted with evidence to the contrary. A legal determination of paternity can only be established by court order.
If a man has fathered a child, he is not the legal father of that child until a court declares him to be the father. Simply having his name on the birth certificate is not sufficient and he has no legal, enforceable right to visitation or to be a part of the child’s life until the court gives him those rights. A Paternity case may be started by either parent, and a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity speeds the process along. If he denies being the father, a court will order genetic testing to establish or deny parentage. Once paternity is established, the father as well as the child are entitled to the legal rights of a child born within a marriage, including court enforced visitation, support from either parent, medical and life insurance coverage and inheritance protection.