Family law (also called matrimonial law or the law of domestic relations) is an area of the law that deals with family matters and domestic relations.
Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. It usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of distribution of property, child custody, alimony (spousal support), child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, and division of debt.
In family law and public policy, child support (or child maintenance) is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child (or parent, caregiver, guardian, or state) following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state.
In family law, child support is often arranged as part of a divorce, marital separation, annulment, determination of parentage or dissolution of a civil union and may supplement alimony (spousal support) arrangements.
Alimony (also called spousal support and spouse maintenance) is a legal obligation on a person to provide financial support to their spouse before or after marital separation or divorce. The obligation arises from the divorce law or family law of the state.
In most states, after parents separate, a child support proceeding takes place, which is considered part of the divorce/separation process. Minor children, those under the age of 18, are entitled to the same level of support they would have received if the two parents had stayed together. At the court hearing, each parent should be prepared to present evidence of his/her ability to pay child support. The best evidence is the most recent tax returns and recent pay stubs. After the court orders a specific child support amount, it is often the case that one parent may seek to modify the child support agreement.
However, a parent seeking child support modification will need to prove a change of circumstances.
The court may either grant a temporary or permanent modification of child support. A temporary modification is a large one-time expenditure for the needs of a child, such as the cost of braces or school uniforms. A permanent modification reflects a substantial change in the needs of a child. For example, if a child has special needs, the associated expenses would most likely increase permanently.
Child support obligations can be emotionally and financially taxing on families and children. Child support modification is necessary in many cases to maintain a balance between the two households. Once an initial support order is in place, people's lives often change, sometimes for the better. As such, it is often necessary to modify a child support order.
Paternity law refers to body of law underlying legal relationship between a father and his biological or adopted children and deals with the rights and obligations of both the father and the child to each other as well as to others. A child's paternity may be relevant in relation to issues of legitimacy, inheritance and rights to a putative father's title or surname, as well as the biological father's rights to child custody in the case of separation or divorce and obligations for child support.
Under common law, a child born to a married woman is presumed under common law to be the child of her husband by virtue of a "presumption of paternity" or presumption of legitimacy. In consideration of a possible non-paternity event (which may or may not include paternity fraud) these presumptions may be rebutted by evidence to the contrary, for example, in disputed child custody and child support cases during divorce, annulment or legal separation.
The legal process of determining paternity normally results in the naming of a man to a child's birth certificate as the child's legal father. A paternity finding resolves issues of legitimacy, and may be followed by court rulings that relate to child support and maintenance, custody and guardianship.
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