PERSONAL AND FAMILY LEGAL MATTERS

Many people need legal assistance at some point to manage challenging life events such as divorce or personal injury. The services of a legal professional can be critical to reaching outcomes or agreements that help individuals and families get through difficult circumstances

Our Family Defender plan provides affordable access to attorney services in a wide range of family and domestic law issues

Because the coverage included in your group’s U.S. Legal Services legal insurance plan may vary, please check with your group’s administrator for specific benefit details.

Divorce, Child Support and Child Custody

Attorneys with experience in divorce proceedings and child support and custody matters may provide counsel on a number of related issues, such as property division and calculating spousal or child support. Depending upon the specific benefits in your plan, the attorneys in the U.S. Legal Services network are available to help with divorce matters, providing services such as:

  • Free consultations
  • The preparation and filing of pleading and affidavits
  • Drafting settlement agreements
  • Representation at hearings for divorce

Additional services may include:

  • The modification or enforcement of alimony or child support orders, which covers representation after a judgment has been entered
  • The establishment of an uncontested guardianship or conservatorship for plan members who are appointed as a person’s guardian or conservator

Adoptions

Every adoption case is different, and an attorney’s help is essential to managing the complex process of adoption. There are many variables, such as the type of adoption, various state laws, where the child is from and more. Your U.S. Legal Services plan covers all legal services and court work in state court for adoptions.

Juvenile Defense

Juvenile defense is a specialized area of family law, and juvenile offenses are managed differently than adult offenses. When a child is accused of an offense, he or she needs expert representation to navigate juvenile defense proceedings.

Personal Injury

Personal injury legal services can cover a range of events, including but not limited to wrongful death, vehicular accidents, injuries or accidents in workplaces,  and defective products. A variety of issues can be factors in personal injury law, such as medical treatment costs, pain and suffering, damage to personal property, long-term care, permanent disability, wage loss, and more.

Landlord/Tenant Law

This area of law deals with the rights of both landlords and tenants, which may vary from state to state. Issues may include leases and rental agreements, security deposits, housing discrimination, rights to privacy and safety, responsibilities for repairs or maintenance, evictions, and more.

Wills and Trusts

The Family Defender not only covers unexpected legal issues our members may face today, but also provides access to network attorneys who can assist with estate planning. Every family — not just those with substantial wealth — can and should plan for the future by having estate-related documents in place. These include:

  • Wills that specify the distribution of property or other assets and name guardians for children
  • Trusts that can be used to distribute property before, upon or after death
  • Living will that specify healthcare wishes

Consult with a Network Attorney

If you have a personal or family legal need and are a member of a U.S. Legal Services plan, you may have access to a network attorney in your area who can advise you. Check with your group’s plan administrator for the specific benefits your plan offers.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Each situation and matter is unique and should be discussed with a U.S. Legal Services network attorney.

Family Legal Matters FAQ

Family law is a specialized area of law where the attorney focuses on issues connected to family relationships and domestic law. This can include prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements and other legal services for newlyweds, adoption issues, child custody/child support law, and so forth. A divorce attorney is another type of lawyer specializing in a family-law niche; still other possibilities include attorneys who focus on paternity issues and child emancipation, as just two more examples. Other areas of law might not traditionally be considered “family,” but can be vital to protect family members. These include juvenile defense; personal injury; landlord tenant issues; and estate planning, such as wills, powers of attorney, and so forth. The Family Defender™ legal plan pays attorney fees for covered issues in your company’s plan, including those associated with family law.
This is a question where the most accurate answer is “it depends.” Lawyer fees can range anywhere from $50 to $1,000 or even more per hour, with attorneys in small rural areas sometimes charging less than those in big cities. And, although an hourly rate is the most common method that attorneys use to bill clients, it’s not the only one. In some cases, an attorney may charge a flat fee for services that won’t be contested; in that situation, it’s important to know what will be covered. For example, filing fees may be an extra charge to you. Some attorneys require that you pay an upfront retainer. This dollar amount will cover the initial costs of your case, and then the attorney would bill you beyond that, based upon his or her rate. As a member of a group legal plan, though, such as Family Defender™, you would pay a low monthly fee and then U.S. Legal would pay for you to use a network attorney, according to the details of your company’s plan.
The short answer is that you aren’t required to use an attorney when you’re getting divorced. Typically, the more relevant question is whether or not you should have one—and, in certain instances, you may not need one. If you don’t have any children, for example, and you and your spouse don’t jointly own assets (such as a house) or have joint bank accounts, and you don’t intend to ask for any alimony, there may not be a reason to have a divorce attorney. That’s because there isn’t really anything to divide up and no child custody/support or spousal support issues to resolve. In most other cases, though, it makes sense to have an attorney help you navigate the processes of child/spousal support and child custody, also advocating for you during asset division.
Custody attorneys provide advice to and, as necessary, represent one party when the custody of a child or children is being negotiated. The attorney advocates for his or her client, presenting evidence in court to show why that client should get or keep custody of the children. So, if you are seeking child custody, your family law attorney would advocate for you; meanwhile, other parties—perhaps a former partner or spouse or, less commonly, a grandparent who has an interest in the case—would likely have their own attorneys to represent their interests. In some cases, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the child’s interests. This could happen upon request of an adult party in the case or if the court decides a lawyer is needed for your child.
Sometimes, an adoption attorney only focuses on cases involving adoptions; other times, he or she has clients involved in an adoption while also taking cases for people who have other legal needs. This attorney could help you to understand the application process, including federal laws, as well as your state’s laws; help you to find an adoption agency; handle paperwork that’s required; appear with you during relevant proceedings; and so forth. An adoption lawyer can also assist you if you want to obtain legal guardianship of a child or the conservatorship of an adult who will not be able to care for himself or herself . Some processes are relatively straightforward, while others—such as an international adoption—can become much more complex.
This is an example of an area that doesn’t technically fall under “family law,” but can be quite important to your family if a relevant issue arises. As the Juvenile Law Center shares, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that youth have a constitutional right to legal counsel during juvenile court proceedings. Language used included that juveniles were entitled to a “guiding hand of counsel”; so, just like with an adult, if a minor can’t afford an attorney, the court must appoint one. The law center also states that, right now, 30 states require legal representation if a court case involves abuse or neglect of a minor.
This is another type of law that isn’t technically considered “family law,” but can be extremely important if a family member is injured. Each personal injury situation is unique; times when it can make sense to hire a personal lawyer include when you or a family member has suffered severe injuries, including but not limited to ones that will cause long-term challenges. Other times when it often makes sense to consult an attorney include when liability for the injury is not clear; when there are numerous people involved in a situation, which makes determining liability more complicated; or when you feel as though insurance companies or other parties are not acting in good faith in a way that’s to your detriment. These are not the only situations when a personal injury attorney can help you to receive fair compensation, but they are good benchmarks to consider.
This is not typically considered part of “family law,” but your family may need this kind of assistance. This is the type of attorney that can help you to sort out your rights when a situation involves the relationship between a landlord and tenant (the person who is renting the relevant property). Landlords might need this type of attorney when seeking to evict a tenant for lack of payment, as just one example, or if being sued for discrimination or an injury that occurred on their property, while renters could use a landlord tenant attorney to have a lease reviewed before signing or if they feel as thought their legal rights are not being respected by their landlord. These are just some examples.
If you need a last will and testament, a living will, or medical and/or financial powers of attorney, this can be very important to your family (although this type of law isn’t considered “family law”). In this situation, it’s important to know your state’s laws (they aren’t all the same) to ensure that all is drafted and executed in a legal way. Although there are no-cost to low-cost ways to do it yourself, if there are errors made or the documents are not fully completed according to relevant laws, this can be a very expensive proposition. So, although you are not legally required to use an estate planning attorney, it can often be the best decision, especially if you have children, own a business, are in a second marriage, have significant assets, were recently divorced, or are in another category that makes it more likely than a misstep can be especially costly.