MN Family vs. Criminal Court, Advantages of a Lawyer Who Knows Both

Family court and criminal court are two distinct systems of law, and it’s common for lawyers to practice either family or criminal law. In some cases, attorneys do practice both.

Family and criminal courts are separate branches of law, and it’s important to know the difference between the two. However, some family law cases also overlap into criminal court, so it’s possible that you’ll need an attorney who is familiar with both systems in order to ensure your best representation.

So what is the difference between family and criminal court, and what kind of lawyer do you need for your situation?

Minnesota Family Court

When a case is processed through family court is considered a civil, rather than criminal, proceeding. The overarching goal of the family court system is to ensure that family issues are resolved fairly for all parties involved.

There are no charges filed; instead, a family court handles what are considered private matters that require mediation. Family court is frequently used to determine the outcome of child custody cases, for instance, or for the “allocation of parental responsibilities.”

A judge, and potentially other advisors such as a guardian ad litem, are able to determine what’s best for the children, and how to best set the family as a whole up for financial success. Often that process includes child custody and alimony determinations.

In a family court, a “preponderance of evidence” is sufficient to rule in the favor of one party; reasonable doubt is not required.

Although appearing in family court is often less intimidating than criminal court, the outcomes of family court proceedings can be just as life-altering. This is why having an experienced family lawyer on your side is essential.

Contrastingly, a criminal court is used to render a verdict in criminal cases, where the accused has been charged with an illegal offense. Let’s take a closer look.

Minnesota Criminal Court

Unlike proceedings in family court, a strict and uniform set of procedures is used to issue a verdict on a given case.

When criminal court cases go to trial, the trial is heard by a judge and jury, and if convicted, the judge imposes a criminal sentence on the accused. This can include monetary fines, jail time, or probation.

In criminal court, the defendant must be proven “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning that the evidence against the accused must be more concrete, and not allow for reasonable doubt of the defendant’s innocence.

Overlap in MN Family and Criminal Courts is Common

Clearly, family and criminal law are very different and require different expertise on the part of your legal representation. That said, any time members of the same family are involved, there is bound to be overlap.

For example, in child custody battles, it’s not uncommon for one parent to level accusations of domestic violence or criminal child abuse.

Unfortunately, these allegations are sometimes made to gain legal leverage in child custody cases, but can still result in child abuse or domestic assault charges being pressed against the accused.

This situation effectively becomes two cases — one prosecuted by the state as domestic violence charges can be brought against a perpetrator by the government and does not need to directly involve the alleged victim of the offense (although it can). The other remains a family court case to determine custody.

When these situations arise, an attorney with expertise in both criminal and family law would be able to represent you in both cases and could leverage his or her expertise and knowledge in both areas of law to make the best case possible for you in both proceedings.

Duluth Family Law Attorney

The bottom line is that the outcomes of family and criminal cases are often life-changing for everyone involved. This means that both types of cases should be pursued aggressively, and with the best legal representation possible.


About the Author:

Andrew T. Poole is a Minnesota native who has served in the Army for more than 18 years and is currently a JAG lawyer in the Army Reserves in addition to serving as a partner at LaCourse, Poole & Envall. He has handled thousands of criminal and family law cases over the course of his career and has a firm belief that all hardworking Minnesotans should be entitled to the best possible legal counsel. Mr. Poole boasts a 10/10 Superb rating on Avvo, is Lead Counsel rated, and has been recognized multiple times by SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers, and others for his work.