Usually the term “family lawyer” only comes up in family court, when a couple is divorcing or when custody is at stake. But yes, other people use lawyers, too.
Why would I need a family lawyer?
If you have kids and a house, a lot of issues may occur where you find you need a lawyer. And while most of us think of lawyers as expensive, in many situations, having a lawyer's help can save you money. Here are 11 reasons you might need a family lawyer:
Is your child being refused IEP accommodations in your school district? Have you exhausted your own knowledge of how to advocate for them? It may be time to get a lawyer involved. Especially if you have a child with a disability, it's important to stay on top of the legal rights of your child.
Adopting a Child
A family lawyer can work with you on your adoption journey, especially as State and Federal laws change over the timeline that you're waiting.
Legal Protections for your Child
Planning to go on vacation and leave your child with a friend/relative while you are away? Proper legal documents are needed to ensure a relative can obtain medical treatment for a child while you’re on vacation. Is your 18-year-old heading off to college? Parents of an adult child (like a college student) need legal documents to retain the ability to make medical and legal decisions for an adult child.
Hiring a Nanny
If you're not going through a nanny agency, you must create your own contract with a nanny under your employ. Use a family lawyer to help you set up a legal contract and counsel you on your tax obligations.
If you have a home business, consider using a lawyer to incorporate or form an LLC (limited liability company) to protect your personal assets, such as your home. Did you know that most counties require a home based business to apply for a zoning permit to conduct a business from your home – even if it is just you in front of a computer? Lawyers can help you navigate these issues.
Protecting Your Blog
Many bloggers monetize their blogs to help supplement the family income. Have you trademarked and copyrighted your blog to prevent a competitor from stealing your content or your brand? A lawyer can help ensure that your blog material is protected before you have a problem, rather than waiting until a problem arises.
Have you or your spouse been offered a new job? Are you signing a job contract? Your employer has a team of lawyers drafting your job contract. Over the course of a career, hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake, so it's important to have a lawyer review your employment contract and possibly help negotiate salary, benefits, and rights.
Renting a Home
Whether you are the landlord or the tenant, it is critical to have an attorney review your lease before you sign it to protect your rights. Too many tenants get stuck with slumlords because they agreed to unfortunate terms in a lease. Many landlords experience deadbeat tenants because they downloaded a template lease from the Internet that does not protect the landlord’s rights. A family lawyer should be consulted before signing a lease.
If you end up in a dispute with a contractor over home construction or repairs, it may be worth it to hire a family lawyer to represent you in getting your money back or to keep you from being sued.
It's awful when it happens, but it does happen. Living here in Northern Virginia, the HOAs (homeowners' associations) in neighborhoods can be quite strict and fight over the smallest issues. Having a family lawyer, even to just write a letter, may take care of the problem before it gets into fines or goes to court.
Writing a Will
As I've shared before, you can protect your kids and your money by writing a will (and perhaps a trust). A family lawyer walks you through the legal process of setting up these documents and can also help with a medical directive, where you make decisions about your health now or give that power to someone else you trust. As your own parents age, have you talked to them about their will? Adult children need to help parents ensure their wishes are reflected in a proper will and medical directive (not downloaded from the Internet).
So how do you find a family lawyer? Ask around in your social groups for a referral. If you live here in the MD/DC/VA area, you can contact The Geller Law Group for a free initial phone consult (send an email to Office@thegellerlawgroup.com). And keep an eye out for a giveaway from The Geller Law Group this January, here on MoneywiseMoms.
Our goal with the Family Lawyer Series is to make law services less scary/more accessible to moms.
What questions do you have about working with a lawyer?
The Family Lawyer Series is underwritten by The Geller Law Group, which is licensed to practice in Maryland, DC, Virginia and North Carolina. Learn more at Geller Law Group. In exchange for the series, I am receiving discounted services to complete my own estate planning documents.