Family Law FAQ
Answers from Our Salt Lake City Family Law Attorneys
If you are reading this, you probably need family law help. Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions that may help clarify whatever is on your mind.
If you do not see your question here, please submit it online or call us at (801) 829-9783.
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.
Contact us for more detailed information on the different types of divorce.
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 they no longer share 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% 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.
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 me?
There are six main types of adoption:
- Relative adoption: Adoption of a child by an adult who is related to the child by blood or marriage. Stepparent adoption and grandparent adoption are forms of relative adoption.
- Adult adoption: When 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 older than the child and they do not have a sexual relationship with one another.
- Agency adoption: Adopting a child through a private or public agency.
- Independent adoption: Adopting a child without the help of an agency.
- Identified adoption: When the adoptive parent locates the birth mother of the child and then turns the adoption process over to an adoption agency.
- International adoption: Adopting a child from a foreign country.
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 hour an attorney spends with you on a new matter.
When I was initially looking for someone to represent my case I thought it was going to cost more then I could afford; lets just say that I was wrong for thinking that.- M.H.
She is very knowledgeable, down to earth, and honest- Former Client
She knows how things are going to play out ahead of time.- Former Client