Becoming any kind of attorney takes perseverance and hard work. However, it can lead to a prosperous career, and working as a family law attorney could be an exciting career path. This article will discuss what this kind of attorney does, how to become one, and how much they earn on average.
What Does a Family Law Attorney Do?
As the name suggests, a family law attorney is an attorney who deals with family affairs. There are various types of family law positions, and lawyers usually specialize. These topics can be:
1. Marriage and Civil Partnership
When couples get married or register a civil partnership, a family lawyer may need to step in. Their services are required when, for instance, a couple decides they wish to sign a prenuptial or pre-civil partnership agreement. In that case, each party would have a lawyer representing them in the process.
2. Child Custody
Lawyers that deal with this topic participate in child custody battles. A custody lawyer represents one party in the child custody case, and their duties include helping the client get full or partial custody or negotiating visitation rights and child support.
When it comes to paternity, there are a number of issues that can arise that require a paternity lawyer to step in. One task of a paternity lawyer can be challenging paternity. Suppose the client suspects they may not be the child’s father, and the mother claims otherwise and is asking for the alimony. In that case, a paternity lawyer can assist in helping gather evidence and handle the required documentation.
Another common law issue in family law is adoption. The clients of adoption lawyers are adoptive parents, birth parents, and sometimes the children. Some of the tasks of an adoption lawyer are:
- Helping the clients find an adequate adoption agency
- Handling the communication with the adoption agency
- Answering any inquiries the clients have regarding the adoption laws
- Assisting the clients with the paperwork
- Negotiating adoption terms on behalf of the client
A family law attorney who deals with divorce is called a divorce attorney. This attorney is also referred to as a domestic relations attorney.
Divorce is usually an emotional roller coaster for the parties involved. A good lawyer will provide objective insight to their client. Other duties of a divorce lawyer include helping with the divorce papers, facilitating the division of assets, solving a debt payment dispute, etc.
6. Domestic Abuse
One of the most serious topics on this list that a family law practitioner deals with is domestic abuse. This form of violence can involve any kind of abuse within the household. It could be an individual abusing their partner or a caretaker being violent toward the person they are caring for. Some forms of domestic abuse include the following:
- Physical abuse: This is what people usually associate the term domestic abuse with. It pertains to physically harming someone in any way, such as hitting them or depriving them of food.
- Emotional abuse: This form of domestic abuse is more difficult to identify and prove but is very common. The abuser uses words to embarrass, blame, emotionally blackmail, and otherwise manipulate their victim. This usually causes the victim to doubt themselves.
- Financial abuse: Rarely talked about, but equally serious, financial abuse entails the abuser denying the victim access to funds or even preventing them from working.
A family lawyer can help the victims in all of these situations. They can provide an objective perspective, explain to the victim what their options are, and put a stop to the abuse by representing the victim in court.
How To Become a Family Lawyer in the US
Becoming a family law attorney is no easy endeavor, so you need to be prepared for some intense work. It takes at least seven years of schoolwork for one to be allowed to practice law. Here are the steps you need to take to complete this journey in the United States.
1. Acquire a Bachelor’s Degree
The first step to becoming a lawyer is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. There aren’t any specific requirements in terms of what major you need to select to be able to attend law school afterward. However, you should consider majors that would best prepare you to practice family law. For instance, majoring in psychology or social work can help you develop essential soft skills.
2. Pass the LSAT
In order to enroll in law school, you need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This test is comprised of two parts. The first part is LSAT Writing, while the second one features multiple-choice questions. The candidates have to take LSAT Writing up to eight days before the multiple-choice test.
The test itself consists of five sections. The candidates should thoroughly prepare to be able to pass, as the test is quite comprehensive. There are official LSAT preparation books that you can study from.
3. Finish Law School
The next step is to choose an adequate law school. If you’re looking to study in the United States, you need to make sure that the school you select is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
While there isn’t a family law degree per se, there are some elective subjects during the final year of study that pertain to family law. After completing law school, you receive a Doctor of Law or Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
Experienced lawyers advise those looking to start a career in law to expand their network as soon as possible. Therefore, it’s good to connect with other lawyers even while you’re just attending law school.
4. Pass the Bar Exam
Having completed law school, you can proceed to the next step, which is to become a licensed attorney. For that to happen, you’re required to pass the bar exam. Keep in mind that preparing for this exam takes a lot of time and effort. Nevertheless, the bar exam is a necessary qualification for becoming a successful family law attorney and dealing with family law cases.
5. Get Continuing Legal Education Credits
Even after passing the bar exam, your education won’t be over. That’s because you’re supposed to keep acquiring CLE credits to be able to maintain your license.
You can enroll in some online or in-person courses and attend conferences. It should be noted that CLE requirements differ from state to state.
After completing all of the necessary steps, you may consider further education. Although by no means obligatory, it can be beneficial for your career as a family lawyer. For instance, getting a master’s degree can open the door for more lucrative job opportunities.
Skills Required to Work as a Family Law Attorney
As with any job, there are some skills you need to possess to be able to successfully carry out your duties as a family law attorney. Some of the needed skills include:
- Excellent communication skills
- Top-notch negotiation skills
- The understanding of human psychology
- Adequate research skills
- Proficiency in explaining complex notions in simple terms
- Ability to empathize yet stay pragmatic in emotional situations
In a nutshell, family law attorneys need to be exceptional at working with people, as they ought to establish a good rapport with their clients. Negotiation skills are essential to adequately represent clients in court.
Family Law Attorneys’ Salaries in the US
Generally speaking, family law attorneys make $103,205 per year on average in the United States. These numbers vary according to the city. For instance, these attorneys earn as much as $156,104 in San Francisco.
Apart from the variations in salary across cities, there are also differences in relation to the type of family law an attorney practices. An adoption attorney receives $96,689 on average, while a divorce lawyer gets $90,070.
ABA recommends that a lawyer works pro bono for at least 50 hours a year.
Working as a pro bono attorney means offering legal counsel to individuals who can’t afford to pay for it. This is voluntary work and usually doesn’t encompass any kind of compensation. Therefore, a pro bono family law attorney assists impoverished individuals in legal matters that pertain to family situations free of charge.
On a Final Note
In conclusion, family law attorneys are individuals who are highly skilled in negotiating and understanding human psychology. The cases they work on include child custody, adoption, divorce, marriage, domestic abuse, and so on. Becoming a family affairs lawyer takes a lot of studying, so this position is reserved for highly determined individuals.