What Is Covered Under Family Law?

Fort Collins Family Lawyers represent clients in all aspects of domestic relations, including marriage, adoption, divorce, child custody and support, as well as spousal support. 

Couples That are Not Married

Unmarried couples that become involved in a long-term relationship are often considered as being in a common law marriage. A Common Law marriage gives the couple the same rights as married couples, provided they comply with certain legal requirements such as cohabitation and declaring themselves to be married.

Prenuptial Agreements

Some couples sign a prenuptial contract before they marry. Prenuptial agreements address common topics such as ….

  • Division of property in the event of a divorce
  • Future rights waivers
  • The duties and responsibilities for each spouse


You must follow certain legal procedures if you want your marriage to be legally recognized. While exact rules may vary from one state to the next, all couples must apply for a license for marriage before they can get married. After that, they must submit a certificate of marriage. 


An annulment is a declaration that the marriage is invalid or that a couple was not legally married. Annulment can be based on:

  • Fraud
  • False representations about your legal eligibility to marry
  • If individuals are too young to marry
  • Impotence or failure to consummate a marriage
  • Temporary insanity

Legal Separation

Perhaps you just need the time to evaluate whether the marriage is possible. Maybe you are certain it will not work, but need the benefits that marriage offers. Legal separation is a court-approved separation that defines the legal rights and obligations of each spouse while not permanently end the marriage.

Summary Dissolution

Married couples who have been married for less than five years and have no minor children may be eligible for a summary dissolution. Some states require that spouses have no shared “real property” or less than a certain amount of marital assets to divide up and that they do not claim spousal support after the separation.


Divorces can now be filed in every state on no-fault grounds. A no-fault divorce is when one spouse declares that their marriage has ended and they cannot preserve it. The court does not have to determine fault in entering a divorce decree dissolving the marriage. 

Division of Property

Courts in “community property” states consider that all assets and certain debts gained during marriage are jointly owned by the spouses. These are subject to equal division in a divorce. This rule does not apply to gifts and inheritances.

Judges in “equitable distribution” states divide marital property according to what they believe is a fair, but not equal, division. The judge may decide it is fair that the custodial parent keeps the house until their youngest child graduates from high school. At that point, they can sell it or force a 50-50 split of the purchase price.

Spousal Support

Spousal support involves money payments made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. The amount, timing and duration of support will depend on the length of the marriage and the earning potential and financial resources of each spouse. They also have to consider the contributions of both spouses and their standard of living. 

Child Support

Each parent is legally obligated to support minor children. This obligation is usually paid monthly to the custodial parent for unmarried or non-custodial spouses following a divorce. The amount of child support will be determined by the income of the parents and the guidelines for the state in which the parents live.

Visitation and Child Custody

Family courts usually handle custody, visitation, and child support all at once. Although parents are free to make their own agreements and have their say on the matter, any parenting plan that impacts or support must be approved by a family court.

Divorce or the dissolution of relationships that produced children may require the formalization of a custody agreement. This will outline the relationship with which the child will live most of the time. Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make important decisions about their child. “Physical custody” refers to the child’s living circumstances. Most courts favor joint legal custody for both parents. Each state has its own rules regarding physical custody.


Once the paternity of a child is established, the parent can have custody, visitation and other important decisions about the child’s future. As mentioned above, the parent also has responsibility for supporting the child. The rights of the child include inheriting from both parents, access to social security and veterans’ benefits, as well access to genetic and medical information.


Adoption law governs how you go about adding a child to your family or making your stepchild equal in law to your biological child. The type of adoption and the place where it is occurring will affect the way the adoption works.

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Family courts can handle certain aspects of domestic violence and abuse cases, while criminal cases of abuse and domestic violence are dealt with in criminal court. Family courts may be required to decide if a parent’s parental rights should be ended or reunified in the case of child cruelty. Family law will handle domestic abuse cases.

Family law is complex in all aspects. It can be challenging to understand the laws of the state and local authorities pertaining to a particular case. An experienced family lawyer may be able to help make this process simpler. These lawyers can present your case to the court, petition the court and negotiate in mediation. They can also help you resolve any problems that may arise.