Family Law FAQ

If you are reading this, you probably need family law help. Salt Lake City, UT clients just like you have probably asked the same questions you want to ask! Here are a few FAQs that may help clarify whatever is on your mind. If you do not see your question here, please submit your question electronically or by calling (801) 924-9211.

What is family law?

Family law refers to the laws governing marriage, divorce (including child custody, child support and alimony), paternity and adoption.

What is divorce?

An absolute divorce is a divorce in which a marriage is completely dissolved. An absolute divorce can be granted on the grounds of marital misconduct (at-fault) or on the grounds that the relationship no longer works (no-fault). All states offer no-fault divorce; however, some states require a separation period before the divorce can be granted.

In a limited divorce, also known as "separation," both parties terminate cohabitation but remain married to each other. Some couples decide to separate on a trial basis to determine whether divorce is the best solution to their marital difficulties.

For more detailed information on the different types of divorce, you may want to contact a divorce lawyer today.

What is an annulment?

In addition to divorce, there is another option available to dissolve a marriage, known as an annulment. An annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed. There are several grounds for an annulment, including:

  • Misrepresentation: for example, lying about already being married
  • Concealment: for example, non-disclosure of a sexually transmitted disease, felony conviction, or drug addiction
  • Non-consummation of the marriage: for example, the refusal or inability to consummate the marriage
  • Misunderstanding: for example, one party thinking that the other wanted children when they did not.

What is child custody?

There are two forms of child custody:

  • Legal custody refers to decision-making with regard to a child. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make decisions about a child's education and choice of school, religious upbringing and extracurricular activities.
  • Physical custody refers to where a child resides, such as if they will live with mom or dad.

A parent may have both physical and legal custody of a minor child, or the parents may be ordered to share physical and legal custody. Joint physical and legal custody is common when parents are able to cooperate and work together to raise their child, even though the parties no longer in the same home.

It is possible for one parent to have physical custody while both parents share legal custody. It is also possible that a child may reside with each parent 50 percent of the time.

The term sole custody is often used when one parent is awarded both legal and physical custody of a child.

The most common custody arrangements are:

  • Sole physical and sole legal custody: When children reside primarily with one parent and that parent makes decisions for the children.
  • Sole physical and joint legal custody: When children reside primarily with one parent and both parents make decisions for the children.
  • Joint physical and joint legal custody: When children live with both parents and both parents make decisions for the children.

The court can make additional assignments of responsibility to a parent. For example, regardless of custody, the court may order that one parent is in charge of educational or medical decisions.

If either parent is unable to care for the child, a grandparent or other relative may be awarded custody.

For more detailed information on the types of child custody and how custody is determined, contact a family attorney today.

Do I need a family lawyer?

The decision to hire a family lawyer is a personal one. However, since many of the issues surrounding divorce, child custody, child support, and adoption are complicated, it may be helpful to have the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

What type of adoption is right for you?

There are six main types of adoption: relative adoption, adult adoption, agency adoption, independent adoption, identified adoption and international adoption.

Relative adoption refers to the adoption of a child by an adult who is related to the child by blood or marriage. The most common type of relative adoption is stepparent adoption. Grandparents can also adopt their grandchildren if the child's parents pass away. The family attorneys at Lokken & Associates, P.C, are seasoned advocates for relative adoptions.

Adult adoption refers to the process wherein one consenting adult chooses to adopt another consenting adult as his or her child. In Utah, consenting adults can file for adoption as long as the adopting adult is at least 10 years or older than the child (the courts may this requirement in some circumstances, such as marriage) and the adults do not have a sexual relationship with one another. Adopting an adult allows the adopting parent and child to formalize their relationship and is often used to make the inheritances process easier.

Agency adoption refers to the adoption of a child through a private or public agency. Private agencies that offer adoptions are usually run by charities or social service agencies and generally place children who have been brought to them by the biological parents. Public agencies that offer adoptions are run by the state and generally place children who have become wards of the state.

Independent adoption refers to the adoption of a child without the help of an agency. Independent adoptions can be arranged with an agreement between the adoptive parent and the biological parent(s). Other independent adoptions may involve an intermediary such as a doctor or clergyperson. In either case, an attorney's assistance is usually required. Most states, except for Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts, offer independent adoption.

Identified adoption can occur when the adoptive parent locates the birth mother of the child and then turns the adoption process over to an adoption agency. This allows the adoptive parent to find a mother who wants to give up her child and avoid the waiting lists at an agency.

International adoption refers to the adoption of a child from a foreign country. International adoptions are more complicated than domestic adoptions in that adoption guidelines for both countries must be fulfilled. In addition, an immigrant visa must be obtained from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the adoptive parent must apply for U.S. citizenship for the child.

If you or someone you love is interested in adopting a child, you may want to contact a family law attorney for more information.

Do you offer no-cost consultations?

There is no fee for the first half (½) hour an attorney spends with you on a new matter.