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What Does a Family Lawyer Do?


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Family lawyers are legal professionals who work with clients on legal issues that arise from life transitions within a family.

These issues can be:

Divorce and Legal Separation: Renowned marriage expert John Gottman has said that there are unresolvable conflicts in marriage [1].  These can ultimately cause people who are married to either give up on the marriage or to do something that creates an “ultimate” conflict.  The ultimate conflict looks like an ultimatum to the marriage but is a symptom of an operational issue within the relationship.

Some family lawyers who handle divorce or legal separation will assembly line divorce or legal separation.  When every tool is a hammer, everything you hit is a nail – right?

Exploring Alternatives to Divorce

If a client comes to our firm, certain that they will file for divorce or legal separation, we explore which option is best and carry out their wishes. However, at times people feel marriages are worth saving but don’t know how to go about saving the relationship.  Complicating this is that legal consequences exist that can create a barrier to trying. For example, the law favors at least filing for divorce or legal separation if you’re the breadwinner and problems arise. A simple court filing can create so much chaos and conflict. There is a way to create legal protections without the chaos, and we work with each individual client to explore every option.

If both spouses will consider collaborative process, we obviously tell them about that option. Most lawyers are not trained to use collaborative process, so the other spouse may not hear about collaborative law anywhere else. If the spouses have both heard about collaborative process before hiring counsel, the chances are far greater that they will use collaborative process.  If the other spouse has hired non-collaborative process counsel, chances are they have already formed a relationship with that lawyer.

Embracing Collaboration in Divorce

The collaborative process minimizes expense and reduces the time for a divorce and maximizes the focus on each individual’s feelings, wishes, and preferences in a way that a litigated divorce simply cannot afford. Just because the other lawyer isn’t trained to use collaborative process, or doesn’t know what it is, doesn’t mean the other lawyer can’t use collaborative process. After 2016, any lawyer in Arizona is permitted to use the procedure in Rule 67.1 of the Family Court Rules to resolve a divorce.

The divorce, whether resolved by litigation or collaborative process, or some other option like mediation, will deal with any number of issues around family members. Legal issues include child custody, divorce, and guardianship will play a role.  In some “gray divorce” situations the guardianship is involving the care of a spouse who is suffering psychosis or dementia or other cognitive impairment. In these cases, if we can help the family use collaborative process, the impairment is not made public in court records.

Beyond Divorce Issues

Going through a divorce is probably one of the most exhausting experiences that a family face. Emotions may run high and make it difficult for a couple to settle it peacefully. A capable family law attorney can help couples in the steps of divorcing to settle the matter without having to go to court. With divorce can bring business dissolutions or shifts in the running of a family-owned business, family or commercial lending issues, and dissolving high stakes assets.  A family lawyer may work with financial, business and real estate valuation experts to help create clarity around money and finances.

Handling Estates and Wills

A will is a legal document through which people declare how they would like their property taken care of when they pass away. If you don’t prepare a will, the State of Arizona has statutes that establish a basic framework for inheritance. State law may not reflect your individual wishes. For one thing, a will states who will care for your minor children if you are incapacitated or dead. A family lawyer may help you draft a will.

Handling Child Custody Agreements

In the aftermath of a separation, determining the future of their child(ren) poses a significant challenge for couples. Separated partners need to reach an agreement on childcare arrangements, or the court steps in.

Child custody is established via agreement or court order, mandating compliance with specified terms. A proficient family lawyer aids separated parents in crafting such agreements. If needed, they can assist in modifying existing child custody arrangements. These orders involve two phases: Pre-decree, occurring before a court order, and post-decree, unfolding after a court order is issued.

Handling Prenup Agreements

A prenup agreement is a document signed by a couple before marriage. Even though the terms can be different for every relationship, the main goal is to detail the conditions of alimony and the property division in the case of a divorce or breakup. A family lawyer can help a couple in creating a prenuptial agreement. A family lawyer can also help with post-nuptial agreements.

Represent Litigants in Court

Although family attorneys can help settle family disputes extrajudicially, some may end up in court. In legal proceedings, attorneys must think quickly and present case-specific arguments. Your family lawyer should be familiar with your unique situation. Family law attorneys often navigate court, equipped with essential legal expertise to assist litigants through the intricate family court system.

The Takeaway

A competent, skilled family law attorney can bring a result to your life that money cannot buy. A skilled family lawyer can help navigate family disagreements that otherwise could destroy a family due to high emotions. The right lawyer has the experience and knowledge to help people resolve issues associated with divorce, prenuptial agreements, child custody, and estate management among other legal issues impacting families. Please be absolutely sure your family law attorney can knowledgeably talk about collaborative law. Collaborative law filters into just about every high stakes, hard-to-divide asset that requires continued cooperation. If you’re having a family legal matter that requires a reasonable approach, contact Moshier Law.



  1. Fulwiler, Michael. “Managing Conflict: Solvable vs. Perpetual Problems.” The Gottman Institute,, 7 Jan. 2019,
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