Students working towards a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) can specialize or receive certification in family law while enrolled in law school. This kind of program prepares students for licensure as a lawyer and takes around three years. Select schools also offer a Master of Law (LL.M.) in Family Law, which is earned after a J.D. degree and can take between one and three years. Combined LL.M. and J.D. programs in this specialty are also available.
Students studying family law learn about marriage, divorce, parental custody, domestic abuse and children's rights. In addition to taking classes, they gain experience through a variety of school-sponsored activities, such as research projects, practice trials, legal clinics and mock court competitions. LL.M., J.D. and combined programs commonly include an externship at a law office. Those seeking licensure as an attorney take their state's bar examination after graduation.
Here are some common concepts taught in family law classes:
- Women's rights
- Dispute resolution/mediation
List of Courses
Family Law Course
Defining the law's relation to family principles is a complex issue. A course in family law examines historical and social contexts that have influenced the modern definition and regulation of families. Students learn how they are legally created, maintained and dissolved. Specific topics include civil and criminal law, adoption, divorce, marriage, marriage substitutes and custody. A family law course is foundational and it is taken at the beginning of a program.
Children and the Law Course
Child abuse, neglect, foster care, adoption and children's rights are topics covered in a children and the law course. Students explore the legal system's relation to children as well as a child's role within a family structure. They also study the creation, maintenance and dissolution of parental and custodial relationships. Some overlap may occur with juvenile justice coursework, since the treatment of children in the criminal justice system is discussed.
Juvenile Justice Course
Juvenile justice courses examine the juvenile court system and laws concerning juvenile offenses. This includes such topics as detention, constitutional rights, diversion programs, trial and disposition. Students learn the history of juvenile courts and their relation to the adult criminal system. They also discuss policy concerns for dealing with youth offenders.
Domestic Violence Law Course
This course covers the judicial system's response to domestic violence. Practical, historical and psychological perspectives shed light on the law's goals and limitations with this issue. Students explore the dynamics of abusive relationships within a family framework, and domestic violence victims as defendants. They also study cross-cultural issues of domestic violence vis-à-vis immigration and international human rights.