Family law is an area of the law that deals specifically with legal matters surrounding familial groups as you might expect. There are in many areas specific family courts that deal with these issues and they are often some of the most crowded courts in a municipal area. With the wide array of legal issues that can surround a familial relationship the courts deal with a huge variety of different cases from prenuptial agreements to juvenile criminal issues.
With the divorce rate of the United States remaining extremely high over other periods in history the business that flows through the family court system is brisk. Divorces and the dissolution of relationships, while making up a large part of the family law system is by no means the end of what this system deals with on a daily basis.
Many cases do not deal with the breakdown of a relationship at all, in fact the opposite. The process of setting up a relationship within the legal system to retain and gain legal rights is considered by the family court system and family law lawyers. Cohabitation, common law marriage and civil unions are adjudicated within this environment also. The legal protections many seek prior to marriage under prenuptial agreements are also considered by this particular area of the legal system.
Issues surrounding children are most often decided within this court system unless they are distinctly criminal matters. Paternity and maternity issues are normally under the purview of this area of the judiciary. Custody of children following the termination of a relationship certainly fall under this category and for obvious reasons can become the most divisive cases that are covered. Custody agreements, if not arranged amicably can drag on for many years. It is the duty of the court to consider the welfare of the children involved above other matters during this type of case. Within the familial legal system there are often ancillary social services involved to help judge what living situation will be in the child's best interest at this time.
Lawyers who specialize in this area of the law will often work with many different areas at any time. Adoption procedures would be considered to be in the area of family law and international adoption will often mean that a lawyer will have familiarity with the immigration and residency issues involving children and parents. For parents of different residency and citizenship status the issue of jurisdiction can be a complicated and divisive one. As with many areas of the law it is preferable that mediation and arbitration help decide the outcome of cases as an agreement is far preferable to a judgement for these types of cases.