Family Law & Related Issues

Planning on and maintaining a family is an important matter that takes a lot of thought and time. Certain issues may sprout up over time including those involving marriage, children, and violence. It is good to be prepared for these issues and know a bit about each one to prepare for the future and what your options are.

Domestic Partners

California recognizes a domestic partner under Stats. 1999, Ch. 588 Sec 2 as “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” California also recognizes that a domestic partnership is established when both people file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State if they are already unmarried, not related by blood, and both are at least 18 years of age, unless exceptions apply. They were created in the 1980s after there was a huge struggle for recognition of same-sex couples by gay rights activists; however, in recent times, these same-sex marriage bans have been seen as unconstitutional.

These partnerships are extremely similar to traditional marriages in many cases because it provides many of the same benefits. However, these are some issues that must be determined by the state that wishes to include domestic partnerships in its laws. They must be able to make qualifications available for these partnerships to exist, rules on how to end a relationship, whether or not the partners will be financially responsible for one another, and much more.

Adoption

Under California state code, section 600 covers adoption in, “An unmarried minor may be adopted by an adult as provided in part. A court may issue an order of adoption.

Adoption is a huge deal and complex legal process that establishes a legal parent-child relationship even though the parent is not a biological parent. This parent-child relationship becomes permanent, which is why there are certain legalities involved to help discover if this is in the best interest of the child before it occurs. There are many steps that a stepparent or agency must take in order to gain adoption rights, including filling out forms and having them reviewed, having investigator interviews, and adoption hearings.

You may come to understand that your adoption absolutely has to be handled by the court and there is no way around adoption court if you want your adoption to be official. This process can be long and drawn-out but well worth it. You will need to understand the basics of filing a petition with the court and going through the hearing, and everything that happens in between! Courts regarding custody of a child will follow the best interest of the child standard and a prospective parent must be able to show the judge that it is in the child’s best interest to be adopted by them.

Cohabitation 

Under California State law, section 4323, it is stated, “Except as otherwise agreed to by the parties in writing, there is a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of proof, of decreased need for spousal support if the supported party is cohabiting with a nonmarital partner.” 

Cohabitation can be a bit different from marriage. For instance, it can be entered into any time by anybody of any age or gender with no requirements. When the relationship ends (if this unfortunately happens) the parties can divide things how they choose; however, this could create more conflicts depending on circumstances. This makes cohabitation a bit more difficult than marriage from a legal standpoint if a separation occurs. When a cohabiting relationship ends and paternity has been established, both parents have a legal obligation to support the children. But what else do you need to know if matters are complicated further?

Same Sex Marriages 

In 1977, California Civil Code 4100 defined marriage as “a personal relation arising out of a civil contract, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.” There were worries that this language was unclear when same-sex marriage was still illegal, and so they passed a law prohibiting people of the same sex from entering lawful marriage. However, this changed over the past few years and now there are new rights in California as well as many other states!

Now, same sex marriage is legally recognized as marriage between two spouses of the same gender in California. These spouses have the same rights and benefits as those that are legally married as opposite-sex couples which includes tax relief, emergency medical decision-making power, spousal benefits, inheritance rights, and more.

Family Violence 

Violence that happens within a family setting with children involved could attribute to abused children becoming offenders in the future. This is why it is in the best interest of the children to not be exposed to this as a precaution. Family violence refers to all crimes that involve family members as offenders and victims. Examples of such include intimate partner and family violence including that of physical and sexual nature, neglect and maltreatment of children, elder abuse, and more with familial relationships being the basis (NCJRS). Where do you turn when you suspect this is happening in a family you know or in your own home?

Domestic Violence 

Sometimes, possessive and controlling behaviors arise over time with a partner and you may not be sure where to turn. The most common thing that all these relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many things to keep power and control over the other partner. This may include hearing from the other party that you can never do anything right, that you are a terrible person and that your family doesn’t love or want you, controlling who you see and what you do, and preventing you from making your own decisions.

Under California code 13700, “Domestic violence” is defined as abuse that is committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating engagement relationship.”

So where do you turn is you believe you have been abused physically, sexually, emotionally, economically, or psychologically? It is vital to remember that, regardless of your sex or gender, you can fall victim to abuse. When an incident is reported and charges are pressed, criminal proceedings will occur as a result. You should be well-prepared for these proceedings and understand what to expect. The State may prosecute even if the victim does not want to prosecute in some cases and restraining orders may be set into place.

Restraining Orders 

According to California Code 525, an “injunction” (also known as a restraining order) is a “writ or order requiring a person to refrain from a particular at. It may be granted by the court in which the action is brought, or by a judge thereof; and when granted by a judge, it may be enforced as an order of the court.” Restraining orders, on a family level, can protect a member from being physically or sexually abused, threatened, stalked, or harassed. They will stop specific acts against everyone named in the order, keep the restrained person a certain distance away, or even in some circumstances tell the restrained person to move out from where the protected person lives and take only clothing and personal belongings along. When domestic violence occurs, you can ask for a domestic violence restraining order. You can ask for this when someone abuses you and you have a close relationship with that person.

Paternity 

In California, Code 7570 says that “there is a compelling state interest in establishing paternity for all children. Establishing paternity if the first step toward a child support award, which, in turn, provides children with equal rights and access to benefits.” Paternity is very important and these complex cases causes the court to make orders that say who the child’s legal parents are. If parents are married when the child is born, there is usually no question about parentage; however, in these modern times many children are born to unmarried parents, so the parentage needs to be established legally.

So what are the legalities surrounding paternity? For one, establishing these rights are necessary before things like custody, visitation, or child support can happen. If you are named as the parent of the child, be prepared for the court to make orders for you to care for that child. How can you prepare yourself for this?