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Most Common Family Law Disputes

Posted On February 14, 2024 In Family Law

Family law cases are among the most legally and emotionally complex court cases in most jurisdictions. The results of disputes in family courts have immediate and lasting repercussions for families at the most personal level. Family courts uphold the “best interests of the child” as their priority in all decision-making in family law disputes. Intimate issues of marriage, divorce, child-raising, and even matters of domestic violence all come before judges in family courtrooms with both sides and their family lawyers representing their cases through evidence and testimony.

The majority of family law disputes arise between divorcing or divorced spouses, but family law is about far more than just dissolving a marriage. Many cases that come for family courts are emotionally fraught and have lasting consequences on a very personal level for both sides of the dispute.

What Are the Most Common Cases To Come Before Judges in Family Court?

Family law matters fill a significant portion of court dockets across the nation each day, including in Arizona. A nationwide survey shows that around half of all filings are in family courts rather than in civil or criminal courtrooms each year. The most common disputes seen in family courts around the country are the following:

Divorce and Dissolution of Domestic Partnership

Divorce cases and all that goes with the complex matter of dissolving a marriage and dividing one family and household into two are the most common sources of legal disputes in family law cases. Divorcing spouses may settle the terms of the divorce out of court with a settlement agreement (an uncontested divorce), but more often than not, divorce and dissolution of domestic partnerships cases go to court to resolve disputes that arise in the following:

  • Military divorce
  • Child custody/ legal decision-making custody/parenting time schedules
  • The division of marital assets and debts
  • Child support
  • Spousal support (alimony)

Other disputes in divorces might also come before the judge in family law cases, such as which spouse may retain the family home or allegations of domestic violence or child neglect.

Paternity/Child Support/and Parenting Time for Unmarried Parents

Child support and child custody disputes also arise between unmarried parents. When a child is born to unwed parents, the court cannot order or enforce child support payments, shared custody, or visitation rights without a paternity test confirming the presumptive father’s biological connection to the child. Family courts often see matters such as:

  • Ordering paternity testing in a court-approved lab
  • Child support
  • Shared child custody or visitation for non-married parents

Courts enforce child support orders for unmarried parents under the premise that all parents have an obligation to support their child; however, they do not force a non-married parent to have custody or visitation if they don’t wish to do so since that would not be in the best interests of the child.

Other Family Law Disputes and Decisions

Divorce and child custody are the most common legal disputes in family courts but they are far from the only matters of family law. Other common family law cases include the following:

  • Temporary orders
  • Legal separation
  • Prenuptial agreement disputes
  • Adoption and stepparent adoption
  • Annulments
  • Modification of existing orders for child support, spousal support, or child custody
  • Name changes
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Domestic violence
  • Emancipation of a minor
  • Grandparent visitation rights
  • Surrogacy

Family courts are civil courts governed by state and local laws. They have jurisdiction over many non-criminal legal matters, all of which have enormous impacts on family life.