What Does a Family Law Attorney Do?

Legal Article

What Does a Family Law Attorney Do?

Because each family is different, family law covers many topics. While most of the topics family law focuses on only reside in this practice area, there are also a number of legal issues that are simply family law related. For example, marriage dissolution, paternity and child support, name changes, termination of parental rights and adoptions, and juvenile matters are the most common family law specific issues. Further, the most common legal practice areas related to family law are real estate and estate planning.

One important note is that states can determine “reasonable formal requirements” for marriage. These requirements include age, mental capacity, and what constitutes a legal divorce. This is important as many family law issues involve spouses and ex-spouses. Below is a list of important family law terms and a description of the most common family law issues.

Important Family Law Terms to Know

These are the most important family law terms to know before contacting a family law attorney.


A voluntary statement of facts that a person writes and certifies by enlisting an officer such as a notary to authorize the statements.

Contested Divorce

A divorce that requires litigation to settle.


To schedule a case for trail or another legal event.


All the assets someone owns including real and personal property.

Blended Family

A family made up of children from earlier relationships or marriages.

Guardian Ad Litem

Usually a lawyer that is appointed by the court to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of a minor or incompetent party.


An occurrence that makes it impossible or impractical to make child-support payments.


A person who cannot pay filing fees or court costs.


A courts final decision of the rights and obligations for the parties in the case.


Relationship by blood, marriage, or adoption.


Legal obligations to another of society and is enforceable by civil remedy or criminal punishment.


Instead of a judge ruling on the case, a neutral third party called the mediator resides to hear the case and works to facilitate discussion and negotiation between the parties.

No-Fault Divorce

A divorce that is due to a breakdown or irreconcilable differences that were not caused by single party.


A legal duty to do or not to do something.

Parenting Plan

A plan that focuses on the responsibility and decisions making authority for each party concerning their child.


An order requiring a person to appear before a court or other tribunal.


A trust is a binding relationship in which the trustee holds and manages the assets that the grantor places within the trust.

Visitation Right

The noncustodial parent’s or grandparent’s court-ordered privilege of spending time with the child who is living with another person.


The withholding of wages for satisfaction of judgements for child support or alimony.

Zero-Tolerance Policy

An established plan that states certain acts that will be allowed or condoned.

Common Types of Family Law Cases

Below are the most common types of issues present in family law situations.

Marriage Dissolution

Going through a divorce is one of the most emotional and financially draining experiences someone can go through. Because of the high emotions present throughout the case and the financial implications associated with a divorce, finding an experienced lawyer who will take the time to understand your individual situation is critical. In such a case, an experienced DC family law attorney will act as a mediator between parties. A good DC family law attorney can even help couples move through a divorce without ever having to go to court.


In DC, most legal cases involving paternity begin with the mother of a child who is looking for the father of the child to pay child support. While seemingly easy, receiving a paternity test from a father who is absent or denying that they are the father of a child can be difficult. While many legal cases involving paternity consist of the mother filing against the father, sometimes biological fathers file for paternity in order to have a relationship with their child. A DC family law attorney is especially useful when a mother or father is refusing to take a paternity test.

Child Custody and Support

When a couple separates, one of the most difficult issues to handle is what happens to minor children. Child custody is an agreement in which both parents have to live with the terms therein. Child custody incorporates two subfields—legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right of the respective parents to make major life decisions for their minor children, like which school to attend, religious decisions, and which doctors to see. Physical custody refers to where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent.

Child support, while not as important as child custody, is typically a topic of divorce cases. Most child support issues will be figured out before a divorce is final. However, these issues may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may change if the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.

Name Changes

An adult or child can legally change their name through a name change case at a family court. While not the most common issue, this is a family law specific issue.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a vital document for any couple to create. A separation or divorce is easier to execute if the terms of the split are already decided upon. Finally, a couple should always strive to agree to terms that are reasonable and fair to both parties. Terms set up like this are more likely to be enforceable than terms that create a significant imbalance between parties. A DC family law attorney is crucial to achieving this goal when prenuptial agreements are written. The reason for this is one party will almost always attempt to get disproportionality favorable terms.

Termination of Parental Rights and Adoptions

In certain cases, a parent should no longer have a parental relationship with a child. The reasons for this most commonly include abandonment, neglect, and abuse. Each of these actions will likely lead a court to terminate someone’s parental rights. Additionally, if someone else wants to become the legal guardian of a child, the family court can grant an adoption.


Adoption is one of the most important yet difficult fields of family law. How an adoption process works depends on the type of adoption, where the child was born, and specific state laws regarding adoption. Furthermore, foster children will sometimes be adopted by their foster parents. This process is different from the normal adoption process yet requires just as much legal knowledge.

Juvenile Matters

Family law also deals with issues concerning a minor’s involvement in illegal activity. Further, the family court can also provide work permits for children under the age of 14.

Property Division

When a couple separates, the person making more money or acquiring more property during the life of the marriage will usually have to share the assets they acquired with their ex-spouse. Further, both spouses have an equal right to the home the couple lives in, even if only one person owns or rents the property.

Estate Planning

Family law can also spill into estate planning. However, whether estate planning is a part of a family law case or not largely depends on the type of trusts and other estate planning tools one utilizes.

Final Thoughts

The main goal of a family law attorney should be to help both parties avoid litigation or help a family quickly move through their legal issue. With over 20 years of experience helping clients with their DC family law issues, Antonoplos & Associates family law attorneys have the knowledge required to help you through any family law issues you may have.

Contact Our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information regarding what does a family law attorney do, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding family law, check out our blog.