In addition to a Juris Doctor degree, family lawyers must also acquire a state law license prior to practicing. Industries that employ lawyers include legal services and government. In 2014, about 1 in 5 lawyers in the United States were self-employed.
Family lawyers handle legal issues such as divorce, legal separation, custody arrangements and adoptions. Individuals must earn a bachelor's degree, complete a J.D. program at law school and then pass their state's bar exam to begin a career as a family lawyer.
|Required Education||Juris Doctor degree|
|Other Requirements||State law license|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||7% for lawyers*|
|Median Annual Salary (2016)||$69,499 for family lawyers**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
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Family Lawyer Career Information
The subdivision of legal practitioner referred to as a 'family lawyer' may be further specialized. Family lawyers may concentrate on divorce, domestic abuse or child support, among other possible fields.
Divorce lawyers work with clients to dissolve a marriage. Laws vary from state to state and may be subject to change, so divorce lawyers must be cognizant of current state laws and regulations. Divorce lawyers help clients determine the most appropriate grounds for divorce within the laws of the state. If there are minor children in a marriage divorce, lawyers may fight for their client in custody suits. This may entail helping the client determine visitation rights and child support payment. Divorce lawyers set up the division of common property and help a client determine proper alimony if it is sought.
Domestic Abuse Lawyer
Domestic abuse is against the law in all 50 states in the U.S. A domestic abuse lawyer may help a client obtain restraining orders to protect him or her from an abusive spouse or significant other. A domestic abuse lawyer should understand the many different types of domestic abuse, including common couple violence, violent resistance and intimate terrorism. A domestic abuse lawyer might help a client fill out and properly submit the proper forms to begin a court case, or they may assist in an existing court case by filing motions and ensuring that appropriate documentation is filed with a judge.
Child Support Lawyer
Child support lawyers help clients enact the legal proceedings to collect child support from a former spouse. This commonly entails filing appropriate paperwork to obtain a court order. A child support lawyer may work with a client to determine paternity through DNA testing, or assist a step-parent to establish in loco parentis, which formalizes the step-parent's intentional assumption of the duties of a natural parent to his or her step-child.
Family Lawyer Career and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly one-fifth of lawyers were self-employed in 2014. In general, lawyers earned a median annual salary of $115,820 as of May 2015, per the BLS (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that family law attorneys earned median annual pay of $69,499.
In particular, salaries vary by city of residency. In 2015, lawyers in the New York, NY/White Plains, NY/Wayne, NJ area earned an average of $167,990 annually, while those in the Boston, MA/Cambridge, MA/Quincy, MA area earned an average of $164,230 annually, reported the BLS.
Some of the areas a family lawyer may specialize in are child support, divorce and domestic abuse. Understanding the demands of the job, including the required educational background and working hours, are important factors to consider when determining if this is the right career for you.