Family law covers a broad spectrum of cases that will require the attention of an experienced Columbia, MO family law attorney. It is unfortunately common for people to believe they do not need legal counsel when facing a family law matter, thinking they can save money on legal fees by handling the situation on their own. The reality is that family law involves complex legal statutes, and the outcome of any family law case has the potential to influence the rest of your life. If you are unsure whether you need legal representation for an impending case, review the following information so you can make a more informed decision about your options.

Legal Counsel for Divorce

If you intend to end your marriage, you are going to need an attorney to help you navigate the process. Even if you believe your divorce case is relatively straightforward and you and your spouse agree to end your marriage, the legal statutes that come into play during the formal process of divorce can be difficult to navigate without legal representation.

Your Columbia, MO family law attorney can help with the preliminary stages of divorce, such as filing your divorce petition and gathering the materials you will need for financial disclosure. Next, they can assist you in determining the best approach to your divorce. For many couples, alternative dispute resolution like mediation offers substantial savings of time and money compared to what divorce litigation typically entails.

Whether you take advantage of alternative dispute resolution or not, you will need to complete at least a few courtroom appearances for your divorce case. Some couples mediate most of their divorce issues before moving to litigation to handle the rest. Ultimately, no matter what your divorce case entails, it will be much easier when you have an experienced Columbia, MO family law attorney on your side to look out for your best interests.

Legal Representation for Adoption

The adoption process can help bring a mixed family closer together and provide an adopted child with the legal protections typically reserved for biological children. It can also establish an adoptive parent’s legal rights over their child. Adoption is possible if one of a child’s biological parents dies, relinquishes their parental rights voluntarily, or has their parental rights involuntarily terminated due to bad behavior.

Technically, an attorney is not a requirement for adoption. However, having an attorney assist you with this process can make it much simpler and faster. Your Columbia, MO family law attorney can assist you in gathering the required paperwork and filing it with the local family court. They can also help you prepare for interviews and inspections from court-appointed officials who need to ensure the adoption suits the child’s best interests. Your attorney can also assist you with the name change process and handle any additional issues that arise during your adoption proceedings.

Legal Counsel for Domestic Violence Cases

“Domestic violence” is a broad term that can apply to many different actions, such as child abuse, spousal abuse, stalking, or making threats of violence. The offender will not only face criminal prosecution for such actions, but their domestic violence charges will also come into play in family law. Their spouse can cite domestic violence as grounds for divorce, and if the couple has children, the court will likely want to prevent the abuser from harming them in the future and award custody to the other parent.

If you have experienced any form of domestic violence, it is vital to seek legal counsel from a reliable Columbia, MO family law attorney who can help you determine your best options for legal recourse. Your attorney will also assist you in navigating the civil and criminal aspects of your case. You may need to testify against your abuser in their criminal case for domestic violence, and depending on the nature of their actions, you could have grounds for a civil claim for damages.

Legal Representation for Annulment

Many people assume that an annulment is effectively the same thing as a divorce, but this is not true. A divorce ends a legal marriage, while an annulment declares that a marriage was never legal or valid in the first place. Annulment requires proving the marriage was never legitimate in the first place, typically due to an issue such as bigamy, blood relation between the spouses, impotence, or incurable mental illness of one of the spouses. If the spouses in an annulled marriage have children, their children remain their legal children, and they will need to develop a child custody and child support arrangement much the same way as unmarried parents would.

Other Cases That Require a Family Law Attorney

You may also need a Columbia, MO family law attorney for many other types of cases, such as:

  • Legal separation. This process is similar to divorce and typically serves as a preliminary phase of a divorce case, but it can also provide struggling couples with time to cool off and determine whether divorce is the right choice for them. An attorney can not only assist with filing the necessary legal separation paperwork with the court but also with transitioning the separation to a formal divorce in the future.
  • Paternity cases. Establishing paternity is an important step in any child custody or child support determination. If you are an alleged father of a child, you need to establish paternity to assert your parental rights, or you may need to disprove your paternity so you are not financially responsible for someone else’s child.
  • Termination of parental rights. If you believe your coparent is unfit to provide a safe environment for your children, or if they have done something to harm your children or put them directly in harm’s way, you can petition the family court to terminate their parental rights and secure sole custody. This is a serious matter, so it’s vital to have reliable legal counsel on your side throughout the proceedings you face.

These are some of the most common examples of family law cases that demand the attention of an experienced Columbia, MO family law attorney, but it is not an exhaustive list of all the family law cases you could potentially face. If you are unsure how to approach a family law case of any kind, it is vital to reach out to a trustworthy Columbia, MO family law lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.