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Fairness in family law

Family law issues can be complicated and emotional. Courts numerous guidelines and precedents to follow when ruling on family matters like divorce and child custody. While these guidelines have been developed and refined over the years through legislation and prior rulings, family law outcomes don't always seem to be fair.

One situation in which fairness may not triumph involves grandparents' rights. For example, if a mother has a child, but is unable to care for the child because of addiction problems, the mother may choose to leave the child in the care of the grandmother. Assume that the grandmother raises the child as her own up to the age of three and the grandmother and girl form a very close bond. During this time, the mother is only marginally in the picture. However, at age three, the mother announces that she is sober and wants full custody of the child. While it may not be fair, a court is likely to side with the mother because courts will usually rule in favor of the biological parent.

Another example could include a young newly-married couple who want to buy a home but lack the means to do so. The husband's parents could generously buy them a home and furniture with the understanding that the couple would pay them back. In the event of a subsequent divorce, the wife could fight for 50 percent of the value. Again, it may not be fair, but the court would likely award her half of the property as there was no evidence that the transaction was intended to be a loan rather than a gift.

Equity and fairness do not always prevail in these matters. The grandmother in the above example may perhaps have been better-advised to pursue adoption procedures for her granddaughter.

Source: Huffington Post, "The 'F' Word in Family Law", Natalie Gregg, December 03, 2013

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