What is Family Law?

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It is a fact of life that issues arise in families.  Oftentimes, these issues get worked out, sometimes between the parties and sometimes with the help of counsellors.  However, some issues require the service of a lawyer.  Whether you are facing a divorce, separation, child custody or support problem, our experience is at your disposal.  We have created this website to provide general information about family law issues and to be a resource for people dealing with these issues.  The following is an overview of what family law is, click on any of the links to learn more about the specific area.  Of course, if you have any questions or need some additional information, you can click on the link to schedule a consultation with an attorney who will be happy to provide additional information and assistance.

Family Law - An 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.  Family law covers areas as diverse as marriage and divorce, to spousal and child support to adoption and custody.  While the basic rules are very simple, the exact application can be complex and vary slightly from judge to judge.  This means that while we have prepared what we hope is a useful guide to understanding some of these issues, it is not a substitute for an experienced lawyer who routinely appears in front of the judges in this area and regularly handles family law matters.

Marriage and Prenuptial Agreements

When people get married, typically they are thinking about the good parts.  No one goes into a marriage thinking about the many risks that are inherent in the union.  The reality is that marriage is a legal and business union as much as it is a romantic one.  While we certainly believe in the romantic side of marriage and its value, we also recognize the importance of addressing on the front end that it is also a legal and business arrangement that is being formed.

Because marriage is a legal and business arrangement, it may be wise to consult with an attorney at Becker Law Firm in Memphis, TN about the advantages of premarital or prenuptial agreements.  These sorts of agreements can be binding and beneficial to protect both spouses, but have a number of requirements dealing with disclosure and timing which affect their validity.  Many couples find it helpful to work through financial issues and the potential disagreements such issues can create before entering into a marriage.  Even if you have the foresight to work through these issues, but then do not take care in the preparation and review of the documents, that foresight can be wasted.


Divorce is a fact of life in this country.  People get divorced for many different reasons and a person can find him or herself the defendant in a divorce for many more reasons.  The bottom line is that divorce is nothing more or less than a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals.  From a legal standpoint, divorce restores an individual to the legal state of being single.  This means that you are free to date, remarry or remain single.   The process also legally divides marital assets and debts and determines the care and custody of the children.  Each state addresses these issues differently. However, most states follow the same basic principles and use relatively uniform standards.

In some states you need to prove fault, commonly referred to as grounds, to obtain a divorce. However, the majority of states (including Tennessee) allow at least one form of no-fault divorce in which the spouses are not required to prove that the other caused the breakdown of the marriage.  Generally speaking, the only purpose of fault grounds for divorce is to allow a person to get divorced, even if one of you does not consent to the divorce.  In some states both fault and no-fault divorce are available.

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 fairly quickly.  However, in other cases, divorcing spouses have disputes regarding their post-marriage financial arrangements and the care and custody of their children. Property division and alimony are almost always hotly contested issues in divorce proceedings, particularly if one spouse has significantly more financial assets or earning capacity than the other.  The early advice of a family law attorney may be able to impact the ultimate result favorably.

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 decision making authority. Physical custody typically involves allocating parental rights and responsibilities regarding the day-to-day care and activities of the children. Decision making authority typically involves allocating the legal rights and responsibilities associated with the child's upbringing.

Sometimes the parents agree to an arrangement; sometimes the court determines one for them. In the past, courts routinely gave mothers physical custody and gave fathers visitation rights. Today, the courts have begun to realize that sometimes it is in the best interests of the children to reside with the father and reverse the roles of the parents. In general, the courts favor joint ongoing child rearing responsibilities with the children residing where it is most practical and where they will flourish. The advice and assistance of a family law attorney can help parents to establish child custody and visitation agreements that focus on the interests of the children.

Child Support

Parents must financially support their children. Parents cannot contract out of paying support (or agree not to pay support).  That obligation usually lasts until the child reaches the age of majority - 18 years old or when the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, but can go longer in some cases. An order for child support must be entered in the parenting plan during a divorce, and either parent may be ordered to pay support depending upon how custody or parenting time is arranged. In most states, an unmarried mother may also file a petition for child support in family court, and an order for support will be entered once paternity has been established.   A father can also file this petition if he wishes to start paying support, as support is retroactive to the birth of the child.

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 court to suspend professional or business licenses, take away driver and recreational licenses, require payment by way of seizing tax refunds, or place non-paying parents in jail when child support obligations are overdue.

Because of the state specific requirements involved in child support, parents can benefit from the advice and involvement of a family law attorney at Becker Law Firm in Memphis, TN when child support issues arise.

Separate Property vs. Joint Property

Assets that you owned before marriage stay with you after divorce. If those assets were commingled after you were married, however, they may be subject to distribution, despite whose name is on the account.  Contact Memphis divorce lawyer Misty D. Becker at 901.881.8716 to discuss your situation.


Every adoption, whether foreign or domestic, requires the action and approval of a court to become final, and each state has its own adoption policies and procedures. Most states have measures in place to assess the fitness of the adopting parents. Adopted children generally receive all the benefits afforded to natural children, and parents owe adopted children the same legal duties of care and support owed to a natural or birth child of the marriage.

Each state has its own policies and procedures controlling child adoption. Most states have measures in place to assess the fitness of the adopting parents. Upon adoption, adopted children generally receive all the benefits afforded to natural children and parents owe adopted children all the legal duties of care and support owed to a natural or birth child of the marriage.

A family law attorney who offers adoption-related services at Becker Law Firm in Memphis, TN can help both adoptive and birth parents throughout all phases of the adoption process.

Legal Rights

Family relations create a host of legal consequences.

Whether you are contemplating marriage or divorce or are considering adoption, a family law attorney at the Becker Law Firm in Memphis, TN, can explain the laws that apply to your particular situation and help you to make the best choices for you and your family.

Copyright ©2011 The Becker Law Firm

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Every case is different and advice will vary from case to case based on your facts.  Exceptions can apply, so, seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.