Career Path Introduction
Family law refers to the statutes, case law and constitutional provisions that govern family-related matters and domestic relations. Family law encompasses divorce and domestic partnership law, adoption law, child welfare law and reproductive law.
Most family law attorneys work primarily on divorce cases, which involve issues of property division, child and spousal support, and child custody. Others handle cases involving adoption, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, surrogacy, child paternity, child protection, child abduction, and the legal rights of same-sex couples. The practice of family law involves a great deal of counseling and contact, often in highly emotional situations.
Family lawyers can be found in solo practices, law firms, state child welfare agencies, child protection divisions of state courts, and nonprofits focusing on issues related to marriage and family, including same-sex marriage advocacy, child welfare and domestic violence.
Clients include individuals seeking divorces, individuals and couples seeking to adopt, parents seeking to change or enforce child custody agreements, surrogate mothers or their clients, at-risk children or the agencies protecting them, mothers or fathers seeking to retain parental rights, or domestic partners.
In a typical day, family lawyers represent divorce clients in court. They draft or review divorce, prenuptial, or adoption agreements. They represent parents or children in child welfare proceedings or advise clients on the estate planning or tax implications of divorce. They prepare pleadings or briefs for court, negotiate surrogacy agreements, or conduct mediations between divorcing parties to resolve issues of property division or child support.
Effective family lawyers benefit from excellent interpersonal skills and a high level of competence in dealing with emotionally charged disputes. They also benefit from first-rate advocacy and negotiating skills, a solid grasp of contracts law, and a strong command of civil procedure, accounting, personal finance, tax law, and other related areas.
During law school students aspiring to family law can gain valuable experience as externs for state agencies dedicated to child and family welfare, as summer associates for family law or divorce attorneys, and as volunteers for organizations assisting individuals involved in family-related conflict or advocating for family-related causes. Many students also compete on interscholastic moot court teams related to family law and belong to law school societies devoted to family law.
Related Chicago-Kent offerings:
Chicago-Kent's Moot Court Honors Society often fields a team for the National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare & Adoption Law.
Chicago-Kent offers a variety of courses for aspiring family law practitioners, ranging from the Legal Rights of Children and Intimate Partner Violence to Family Wealth Management and Reproductive Technology.
>> View J.D. courses relating to family law.
The Child and Family Law Society educates students about career paths in family law ranging from juvenile law and elder law to matrimonial law and parent rights. The CFLS also facilitates relationships between students and alumni through networking events and and panel discussions.