According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), prospective divorce attorneys will need to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) from an American Bar Association-accredited law school before they can get started in this field.
Post-professional Master of Laws (LLM) programs are also available to students who would like to further specialize in this area. These programs tend to offer students a background in law, with the options to focus on certain areas such as family law, which includes divorce.
A bachelor's degree is required for both of these programs.
Curriculum in a Juris Doctor degree program provides students with the legal research, reasoning and writing skills they'll need to be successful in this field. These 3-year programs also introduce students to a broad range of legal topics and allow them to focus on an area of interest, such as family law, once they reach advanced standing in the program. Ample opportunities for hands-on legal experience are often included in these programs as well.
First-year law students are required to complete a series of core courses covering a wide range of legal specialties, such as civil procedures, criminal law and legal research. Students may then take elective classes in their remaining two years of study to focus on family law or another area of interest. Family law courses in a JD program may include topics in:
- Marital property law
- Comparative family law
- Child custody
- Youth advocacy
- Parental rights
- Estate planning
Master of Laws
Master of Laws (LLM) programs require one year of full-time study and allow students to pursue specialized training in an area of interest. A few schools offer LLM programs specifically in family law or allow students to choose this area of study as a concentration. These programs typically combine hands-on experience in a school's family law clinic with traditional classroom study and thesis research. A JD from an ABA-accredited school will typically meet minimum admission requirements for these programs.
Course requirements for LLM programs are flexible. After completing a handful of seminars and field experiences, students are generally allowed to select their own course of study. Topics of instruction in family law can include:
- International family law
- Adoption law
- Child welfare policy
- Alternative dispute resolution
Popular Career Options
Provided they've met licensure requirements, graduates of LLM programs are also prepared to practice specialized areas of law. The following family law career options are available at the state or federal government levels, as well as through a private practice:
- Family lawyer
- Collaborative divorce lawyer
- Family advocate
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
While the BLS doesn't provide information specifically for divorce lawyers, lawyers as a whole were projected to see a job growth of 6% from 2014-2024. The BLS also reported that lawyers earned a median salary of $115,820 as of May 2015.
Before practicing law, graduates of JD programs will need to meet their state's licensing requirements, which typically entail passing a state bar exam. Lawyers will also need to participate in continuing education to maintain their credentials.
Aspiring divorce lawyers can pursue Juris Doctor and Master's of Law degree programs, in which they can focus on family and divorce law. Graduates of these programs will have ample opportunities for work with above average salaries.