Family AttorneyJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Family attorneys assist clients with legal matters involving families and family relationships. Divorce, child custody, alimony, paternity, child emancipation, domestic violence, and adoption are just a few of the issues these lawyers handle. Family attorneys help guide their clients through some of the most stressful events in life. In addition to skills in litigation and negotiation, lawyers in this specialty need to possess some counseling skills to help navigate emotionally charged situations. Family-related issues can often be intense, and working as a family attorney can be stressful.

A family attorney should also have some basic knowledge of accounting and financial matters. They frequently have to deal with dividing assets during a divorce, alimony payments, or child support issues, and present financial plans and proposals in court.

Sample job description

Family attorneys work to resolve matters and domestic relations between members of the same family. They may oversee issues dealing with marriage, adoption, child custody, divorce, and guardianship. They may be involved with child protective proceedings, juvenile law, and paternity cases. A successful family attorney seeks objectivity. They also must be articulate, responsive, and assertive. In-depth experience is a plus. A lawyer with a lot of experiential knowledge often has a far better ability to apply and interpret law than one who’s just started off, because family matters can be very complex and creativity is often essential. [Your Company Name] is hiring committed and motivated family lawyers to take our company to new heights. If you have experience with monitoring and overseeing family matters, a family lawyer position at our company may suit you.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Draft motions, marriage and divorce agreements, division of assets, and child custody documents
  • Appear at court hearings to argue motions or represent a client in a trial
  • Negotiate with clients and opposing attorneys
  • Assist clients with navigating family court

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work.

Courses in basic accounting, finance or law school specialization in child custody issues, property rights, and related subjects are preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of federal and state laws and regulations regarding marriage, divorce, child custody, and division of assets
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Expertise in negotiation
  • Counseling skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • 3+ years of experience working as a family attorney
  • Ability to de-escalate situations

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a family attorney is $88,000 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$87,500$118,400
Los Angeles, California$98,750$133,600
Denver, Colorado$82,300$111,300
Washington, DC$100,250$135,600
Miami, Florida$81,900$110,800
Orlando, Florida$75,550$102,200
Tampa, Florida$76,300$103,200
Atlanta, Georgia$80,050$108,300
Chicago, Illinois$92,000$124,500
Boston, Massachusetts$99,500$134,600
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$79,300$107,250
New York City, New York$104,700$141,700
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$85,250$115,350
Dallas, Texas$83,050$112,350
Houston, Texas$82,300$111,300
Seattle, Washington$95,750$129,550
National Average$74,800$101,200

Typical work environment

Most family lawyers work primarily in law offices, but some may travel to attend meetings with clients at homes, hospitals, or prisons. Generally, the day may be spent negotiating minor issues, drafting correspondences, and preparing pleadings for court, and going to court. A fair amount of time is spent in court hearings. Careers in family law provide stable hours with a lot of one-on-one time with clients.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a family attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week, especially when nearing deadlines or preparing for court proceedings.

Available certifications

Online courses in family law are often offered through paralegal programs, legal studies programs, and in a few law programs. Check out the following:

  • The Family Law Specialist Certificate Program. This certificate is offered through the University of Texas at Austin as an online self-paced course. There is a three-part modality to the course: Family Law, Juvenile Law, and an elective that the instructor helps students select based upon which fits best with their particular field of interest. 

Career path

Family attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to pursue a J.D. degree. College coursework in subjects like basic accounting, as well as law school courses in child custody law, property rights, marriage and divorce law, and related subjects is preferred.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress on either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030876,578
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

Family attorneys should be aware of some significant trends that impact their chosen profession. One of those, according to an article on the career planning website The Balance Careers, is the concept of collaborative law. It’s an alternative to litigation for divorcing spouses and other clients involved in different family law disputes. In collaborative law, the parties hire attorneys who commit to using group meetings to include both parties in all negotiations. The aim is to resolve the matter without going to court. Should either party decide to go to court after all, both attorneys agree not to represent either party in court. Another social trend that may affect how family attorneys do their work is conscious co-parenting, in which parents who decide to get divorced choose to present a united front to their children. The parents agree to custody terms on their own, rather than through a potentially adversarial court hearing.

Sample interview questions

  • What are the most important factors involved in a will?
  • How do you prioritize cases?
  • How do you ensure clients are kept up-to-date with their courses?
  • How do you ensure that mediation between family members remains calm?
  • What do you think about the principle of legal aid?
  • If you had to come up with a law, what would it be?
  • What interests you about family law?
  • What makes your experience in law unique?
  • What would you do if you were given more initiatives than you could handle?
  • Why have you applied to work here?
  • What is a current issue that is affecting law firms?
  • Are there any gaps in the firm’s social offering that you could fill?
  • Why did you choose your law school?

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