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Family law deals with family-related issues and domestic relations such as marriage, civil unions, divorce, spousal abuse, child custody and visitation, property, alimony, child support awards, as well as child abuse issues, adoption, and other family-related issues.
There are many family law cases that come through the family court system and many jurisdictions in the United States see the most crowded dockets in family courts. From rich to poor and young to old, family law cases are plentiful in American courts. Due to underfunding and the fact that family courts see a relatively large portion of economically dependent litigants, the system has been criticized for prejudice against the disadvantaged parties in family law cases.
In November 2004, a ballot initiative in Massachusetts approved equal legal and physical custody of children whose parents are divorced by a vote or 85% to 15%. That ballot initiative, although nonbinding, is indicative of the will of the people and the growing recognition that children are better off under the care of both parents. The initiative came out of the grassroots with a massive signature-gathering effort to change the unfair outcomes of family law cases.
A fathers' rights group started the initiative because they believed that fathers were systematically discriminated against in family law cases. The majority of decisions in family law cases award physical custody to the mother even when the father has committed no fault. Even when state law requires equal custody, family courts usually deny faultless fathers equal parental rights.
Family courts usually rely on a concept called "the best interest of the child" during family law cases. However, that notion is a subjective, undefinable rule with no standards or accountability, and in all essence, it is subject to the personal whim or bias of the family court. Family court judges do not like making a judicial decision far from the law and from any due process finding of fault. They would rather call on a court-appointed psychologist to give an opinion of who deserves custody, even though the issue before the court is legal and not psychological. The credentials of the psychologist are no more important than the experience of the judge, mother, or father in determining what is in the best interest of the child.
A study of family law cases showed that many family court decisions deprive fathers of their parental rights and children of their fathers, without being based on any finding of fault. Information on family law cases is usually difficult to research because family court information is not available to the public eye. Fathers are starting to fight back against family law cases. On behalf of an estimated 25 million non-custodial parents, primarily fathers, federal class action suits were filed against 46 states claiming violation of their right to equal custody of their children.Family law cases should ensure that children of broken homes have equal access to their fathers and mothers. It is the child that suffers the most through divorce, and family law cases shouldn't last any longer than they have to. Contact a family law attorney to see if you can avoid court altogether through a collaborative family law program.
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Child custody rights may be shared by both parents or, primary child custody rights may be awarded to one parent or legal guardian. Since the 1970s the family court will award child custody rights contingent with the best interests of the child.
Child custody for fathers following a divorce is one of the most important aspects of a dissolving marriage. Throughout history the legal presumptions about child custody for fathers has changed significantly. Before the twentieth century children were regarded as the property of their father. Under common law, child custody for fathers was commonly awarded, as children were considered a father's rightful property. A major shift occurred after this period in history, as family courts came to favor mothers in child custody cases. It was presumed that under normal circumstances, children did better when placed in the sole custody of their mothers.