The Basics of Family Law

The Basics of Family Law

Family Law is an area of law that deals with family matters and domestic relations such as divorce, child support, child custody, adoption, termination of parental rights, petitions for protection from abuse, alimony, pre, and post-nuptial agreements, and more.

It can also include other forms of family affairs such as:

  • Annulment
  • Conservatorships
  • Delinquency
  • Dependency
  • Grandparent Rights
  • Guardianships
  • Health Care Directives
  • Juvenile
  • Mediation
  • Name Changes
  • Paternity
  • Parent Relocation
  • Power of Attorney
  • Probate
  • Pre-nuptials
  • Protection from Abuse (PFA)
  • Spousal Support
  • Visitation
  • Wills

Helpful Terms to Know Around Family Law

There is a lot of legal jargon so we’ve broken down some of the terms you’re most likely to come across.

Legal custody is when a parent is responsible for making decisions about the child’s health, education, and overall welfare. Joint and sole custody are options for legal custody as well.

Physical custody is known by many for who the child lives with.  Physical custody means that one parent has been granted the primary responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care. Those responsibilities include providing the child with food, shelter, and safety. In this instance, the child resides at one parent’s home the majority of the time.

Legal Separation A Legal Separation and a divorce are almost identical in the fact that the procedures are the same. Child custody and support can be awarded, and assets and debts will be divided in both; however, at the end of the Legal Separation process, you remain married to your spouse.

Divorce settlements generally focus on three things: marital property division, alimony and support, and child custody and support.

Collaborative Law is a method of alternative dispute resolution wherein the parties commit to resolving their dispute out of court. Because parties to a divorce often need to have a continuing relationship due to co-parenting of children, Collaborative Law is ideally suited to divorce and other family law matters.

Uncontested Divorce refers to a divorce where the parties do not go to court, and the divorce is submitted solely on the parties’ written agreement.

Guardian ad litem In Alabama, a GAL is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the “best interests” of the child or children involved. A GAL’s duty is not necessarily to advocate for what the child wants, which can sometimes be opposed to what is in the child’s best interests. The Guardian Ad Litem will often be asked to present a recommendation to the Court for consideration after the case. While the Court will consider the GAL’s recommendation, the Court is not bound by what the GAL recommends.

Mediation Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution where a third-party neutral, typically a lawyer, facilitates a settlement agreement in your case.

Tips from A Family Lawyer

We have years of experience as family lawyers. With that, we’ve been able to create helpful video resources for people looking for more information on how to navigate divorce. Here are a few of our most popular videos that answer questions you may have.

DIY Divorce

People are often tempted to DIY or Google their way through a separation, but it’s worth consulting with a lawyer to see how they might be able to assist you. It may be more straightforward and affordable than you think.

We have found that the DIY divorce websites our clients use are not always in compliance with local laws. Furthermore, the judges and clerks at the Mobile Domestic Relations Court are themselves legally obligated not to give you legal advice, so there is no one to turn to for specific questions about your case, unless you hire a lawyer.

We can provide that much-needed legal advice and next steps. We’re here to help you get a fresh start and provide support during a traumatic period whether or not you and your partner decide to split ways. If you’re even contemplating a divorce, call us, and we can share the next steps and guide you through what that process might look like for you.

Reasons to Hire A Family Lawyer

A lawyer is an added layer of protection during contentious situations. You can communicate critical decisions and requests through your lawyer and remove yourself from the heated part of the argument. This is especially helpful if the situation is high conflict and very escalated. A lawyer can work with you to create a parenting plan that meets your family’s unique needs and isn’t a boilerplate web form. They have years of experience on what has worked well for other clients and what hasn’t worked so well so you can avoid crucial mistakes. When it comes to arranging summer break, vacations, and holiday time, this insight can prove invaluable.

You can let the lawyers handle some of the more challenging aspects of the separation and keep the focus on the interactions you and your partner do need to have. Your lawyer will be your best line of defense and protection if there is abuse or if you are being bullied or coerced into agreeing to something not in your best interests.

What Our Clients Say

“(Herlihy Family Law) was the strongest and most competent legal team I could ask for. As a father fighting for custody, I was intimidated going into this battle. From the very first phone call with Alison, I am positive I made the right decision. The entire team at Herlihy Family law helped me through my child custody case. They were always thorough, honest, hard-working, quick to communicate with me through every step and take action when needed. All information was presented to me in a factual and realistic manner without any fluff. My voice was always heard and valued. I am so thankful that I chose them and because of this team, I was awarded everything we were fighting for. I completely recommend Herlihy Family Law for anyones case.” – Dwayne McLain

Five Star Review on Google

Five Star Review on Google

We just received another Five Star Client review on Google from a recent divorce client:

Alison is what’s known as a “SME” (Subject Matter Expert) in military terms. If you are Honest, Respectful and follow her sage guidance, you will prevail in court. She is worth EVERY penny. Do your part, and she will definitely do hers. You could not ask for a better attitude.

Alison Baxter Herlihy P.C. Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Alison Baxter Herlihy P.C. Celebrates 10th Anniversary

February 28, 2021 marks the 10th Anniversary of Alison Baxter Herlihy P.C.  These past 10 years have flown by!  We have grown so much over the years.  Back in 2011, Alison rented a one room office at 401 Church Street, but now we have our own building at 1751 Dauphin Street and are a three-person office.  Heather Dennis is our legal assistant/office manager – Heather keeps everything running here efficiently and is our first line of excellent customer service for our clients.  Walter Gewin joined the firm as an Associate Attorney in September 2020 and is already an invaluable team member who helps us serve even more Family Law clients.

I want to personally express how grateful I am to my family, friends and colleagues for their support over the years and to all of my clients for trusting to me to handle some of the most important and sensitive legal matters there are – their families and their children.  Family Law gives you a unique opportunity and responsibility to help people resolve complex changes in their personal lives, and I try to appreciate that every day.  Thank you from all of us at Alison Baxter Herlihy, P.C!  We hope the next 10 years bring continued growth and opportunities to impact our community and serve our clients.

New 5 Star Client Review on Google

We just received this new 5 star client review on Google:

I went through a long and difficult contested divorce with no minor children. Alison and her team were so good at advising me throughout the process. They were patient and understanding with any issue I had. If I had questions or concerns, Alison was able to answer and put me at ease. She has a gift for being the right balance of firm and compassionate. In preparing for trial, she was knowledgeable, skilled and thorough. I would recommend her and her team to anyone for any area of family law.

What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

A Legal Separation and a Divorce are almost identical in the fact that the procedures are the same, child custody and support can be awarded, and assets and debts will be divided in both; however, at the end of the process of Legal Separation, you remain married to your spouse. A Legal Separation is rarely necessary or beneficial for most people because if you obtain a legal separation and decide later that you want to get divorced, after all, you have to go through the time and expense of the Court process twice. Some notable exceptions might be if a party has religious beliefs that do not allow for divorce, or if a party has a chronic illness that makes obtaining their own health Insurance cost-prohibitive or impossible. If parties know they will never want to get remarried again, a Legal Separation may suffice for them.

Both Legal Separation and Divorce can be handled in a contested or uncontested matter, but both parties have to agree for a Legal Separation to be ordered. If one spouse wants a legal separation and one spouse wants a Divorce, the Court will grant a divorce. If you and your spouse are having trouble and could benefit from some time apart, you can separate without obtaining a Legal Separation.

What You Need to Know About Divorce in Mobile, Alabama

What You Need to Know About Divorce in Mobile, Alabama

Here in Mobile, our divorce court is called Domestic Relations Court. The Domestic Relations clerk’s office is located on the 9th floor of Mobile Government Plaza and the Courtrooms are located on the 2nd floor.

We have two judges who handle all of the Divorce and Post-Divorce cases, as well as all Petitions for Protection From Abuse (PFAs). Post-Divorce means all matters related to enforcement or modification of prior divorce orders. These judges are the Hon. Walter H. Honeycutt and Hon. Michael D. Sherman. These judges preside over what is probably the busiest court in the state, hearing thousands of cases per year each. If your divorce is handled in an uncontested manner, where the parties agree on all terms, your divorce agreement must be on file with the Court for 30 days, then the judge can grant your divorce. If your case must be handled in a contested manner, where discovery of information is done on both sides and the case is eventually set for trial, it typically took a case an average of 12 months to get to trial. Today, trial settings are significantly slower due to the COVID-19 crisis. As such, more cases are being referred to other avenues to assist in settling disputes, including the appointment of Special Masters to resolve discovery disputes and Mediation to try to achieve settlement of the entire case.

More information about Mobile County Domestic Relations Court, including the Court’s Parenting Guidelines and the Court’s Pretrial Order, can be found on their official website, here: