In most jurisdictions, family law facilitators are employed by the court, and are located within the courthouse or city hall of the county in which they operate. Facilitators are on hand to provide citizens with information about various court procedures related to marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, modifications of current orders, and other family law matters. They may also assist individuals acting “pro se,” meaning they are representing themselves with no attorney. The exact services provided by the facilitator will depend on the jurisdiction in which they are located. Some may offer more services than others, but assistance may take the form of:
- Helping individuals calculate child support based on state laws
- Helping individuals find the right legal forms and providing instructions for completing the forms
- Reviewing forms to ensure they are property filled out prior to filing
- Explaining legal terms or jargon to individuals
- Helping people understand court proceedings, filing fees, and schedules
- Referring individuals to legal or social service organizations and resources
In some counties, a family court facilitator acts as a mediator in family law cases. In this instance, the facilitator gathers information, visits with the parties, and helps them come up with an agreement. This is often done in child support and custody disputes. After an agreement is reached, it is presented to the judge overseeing the case.
What Family Law Covers
- Marriage & Living Together: Eligibility requirements such as age and gender (i.e., same-sex marriage) are primarily governed at the state level. Also, different states have different laws governing legal partnerships other than marriage.
- Divorce & Alimony: Also called "dissolution of marriage," divorces come about via court order, either with or without legal representation. Sometimes one spouse will be required to provide financial support for the other after a divorce.
- Child Custody & Child Support: When parents get divorced, the court must decide what is in the best interests of the children, which includes living arrangements and financial support.
- Adoption & Foster Care: A variety of legal considerations may come into play when adopting or fostering a child.
- Parental Liability & Emancipation: Parents often are liable for the actions of their children. Some children may become "emancipated" if they can prove their maturity and ability to live apart from their parents.
- Reproductive Rights: Laws governing abortion, birth control, artificial conception, and other reproductive rights are established at the state level and change often.
- Domestic Violence & Child Abuse: While these violations are handled in criminal court, they often raise legal issues affecting the family, as well.