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What are the Different Types of Family Law Documents?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Different types of family law documents run the gamut of acceptable court pleadings customized to address the action at issue and include complaints, answers, consents, counterclaims, replies, motions, agreements, and forms. Family law is a legal area that includes a broad range of interpersonal issues. In many jurisdictions, family law takes up so much of the judicial process that everything that falls under that topic has been aggregated into its own court docket. The three broad categories covered by family law are marital unions, parent-child relations, and marital termination, and the court will accept documents, known as pleadings, in support of various actions under those topics.

The first category of family law proceedings encompasses marital unions, including traditional marriage and civil unions. This category rarely includes formal pleadings because this part of the progress of family life is less contentious, as not many couples at this stage are yet filing actions against one another. Family law documents under this category include certificates of marriage, name change forms, and premarital or prenuptial agreements. Different jurisdictions might enable other types of actions under this category or call these particular documents by other names, but the general concepts handled by these forms, certificates, and agreements are common across jurisdictions.

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Actions involving parent-child relations comprise the second major area of family law. This area can include actions that establish paternity, appoint a legal guardian, remove a child from a home for cause, or deal with issues of custody or support. Family law documents under this category often include petitions to establish paternity, child support orders and motions to modify a child support order, motions for temporary custody or to establish visitation, and motions for contempt for failure to comply with prior court orders.

Perhaps the most document-rich area of family law encompasses marital terminations, including annulment, divorce, and separation. Under this category, a party initiates a court action and sues for relief. As a result, these family law documents will mirror the types of pleadings filed in any case, including complaints asking for absolute divorce, legal separation or annulment, and answers, counterclaims and replies regarding the same. Motions for temporary alimony, for court costs, or to restrain a spouse from depleting marital asset are common. This category would also include the forms and attachments that would be produced to establish the marital estate as part of the proof needed to reach a divorce settlement.

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