Family Law Litigation & Family Law Disputes

Family law litigation refers to the process of going to court to resolve disputes about domestic issues.

Unless the parties reach an agreement first, a judge or similar judicial officer decides the issues according to the family code in that location.

Many family law disputes are resolved without going to court — that is, without litigation — either by the parties on their own or with help from a lawyer or mediator.

Staying out of court is highly recommended for most family law disputes because litigation is stressful, expensive and can cause further breakdown in the family.

Here's what you need to know when deciding whether to litigate a family law dispute.

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Types of family law litigation

Family law covers a wide range of issues, including:

  • Divorce: When spouses end their marriage
  • Legal separation: When spouses divide property and custody but don't end their marriage
  • Annulment: When spouses cancel their marriage so that legally it never happened
  • Custody and visitation: When parents divide responsibility for and time with their child
  • Child support: When one parent pays the other to help with their child's expenses
  • Paternity and parentage: When someone is named a legal parent
  • Termination of parental rights: When the court takes away someone's status as a legal parent
  • Adoption: When the court names a new parent or parents for a child
  • Guardianship: When someone besides a child's parent is appointed to care for the child
  • Emancipation: When a minor is declared legally independent of their parents
  • Protection from domestic violence: When the court takes measures to protect a person from a partner or family member
  • Child abuse and neglect: When the court takes measures to protect a child

Using a family litigation lawyer

Many people in family law cases represent themselves. As a result, most courts have extensive resources for representing yourself in family court.

However, using a family litigation lawyer is recommended, especially if your case has any complexity. For example, when spouses agree on the terms of a basic divorce, they may not need legal representation. (To cover their bases, they might instead share the cost of having a lawyer review their agreement.) But when parents can't agree on custody, they would each be better off hiring a family lawyer, if they can afford to.

Family litigators understand the local law and usually have experience with the court and judge you'll work with. Their insider knowledge can help you get what you believe is best and avoid hiccups that would delay your case.

Getting family law legal advice

There are ways to get family law legal advice besides hiring a litigator to represent you.

You can do just a consultation with a lawyer (or do a few consultations to get a wide range of opinions). Initial consultations are often free or priced low. Getting more extensive advice from a lawyer may cost more, but it will still be cheaper than hiring a lawyer to do all your paperwork and appear with you in court.

Your court might have a lawyer on staff who helps self-represented litigants for free.

You may also be eligible for free or low-cost help from a local legal aid organization.

Using family law apps

Numerous apps exist today to help you stay organized and understand what's needed in your family law case.

If your case is about child custody, use Custody X Change to take charge of it.

With custody calendars, a parenting plan template, an expense tracker and more, the Custody X Change online app makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in court and in co-parenting.

Take advantage of our technology to stay on top of all the moving parts of your case.

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Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

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Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court


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