What Is The Standard Of Proof In Family Law?

16 September 2020
 Categories: , Blog


The stand of proof is often a major influence on how cases in court will turn out. There are several standards, and each type of court uses a different one.

If you're trying to sort out a family law issue, you may wonder what the standard of proof is. On one hand, the simple answer family lawyers will provide is that the civil standard is usually used. It gets a little more complicated than that, though, because family law introduces a specific set of problems. Dig into how this issue applies to family court.

Common Standards of Evidence

The criminal standard is what's called "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is the standard most folks are familiar with, but it has no bearing on family court proceedings.

A "preponderance of the evidence" is considered the standard for the vast majority of civil cases. That includes family law matters. With this standard, the goal is to show that your explanation for what happened is the most likely one to be the truth.

Some civil matters use a standard that's called "clear and convincing evidence." Cases involving civil fraud are among them, and family law cases where a parent's rights are involuntarily terminated represent the second class.

The Preponderance of the Evidence

When a family law firm looks at a dispute, this is nearly always the standard. For example, someone might have petitioned the court for a modification of a child support order. Perhaps that person also has a somewhat inconsistent income because they mostly do contract work. When the judge resolves the question of whether a modification is necessary, they will review the evidence about the individual's income and decide whether one answer or the other is most likely the right one.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

This is the standard between "beyond a shadow of a doubt" and "preponderance of the evidence." It only applies to the loss of parental rights when there is a dispute. The judge has to determine if there is a high probability that accusations against the parent are sufficient to justify ending their parental rights.


Three scenarios in family law can create outcomes that may run contrary to the standard of evidence. First, when a case involves a kid, the judge has a duty to look out for the best interests of the child regardless of other factors. Second, divorce proceedings in some states require equitable distribution of assets. Finally, many states assign child support based on nothing but formulas.

For more information, contact a family law firm in your area today.