Family law is the field of law that revolves around the family unit and domestic issues.
It covers a wide range of issues, including everything from marriages and civil unions to adoption and surrogacy.
As such, it isn’t just about the nuclear family, since it extends to the legal relationship between two people and settles disputes of marriage and more.
If you’re interested in studying or practising family law someday, then this article should give you an overview of what you can expect and what the main reasons for pursuing it might be.
Is family law just about families?
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, family law is concerned with more than just the nuclear family unit.
In fact, family law can be very complex, as it covers many issues, some of which we’ll get into now.
One of the biggest areas family lawyers have to deal with isn’t to do with the traditional family at all, but rather the coupling of two people in the eyes of the law in the form of marriage.
Marriage and divorce are both hugely important ceremonies in many societies, and both are subject to family law.
However, like with many fields of law, it’s hard to make many universal statements about the two processes since laws differ locally and nationally.
For example, in some countries same-sex marriage is still unfortunately considered unlawful, so a same-sex couple can’t legally get married.
A huge reason many people would need to get in touch with a family lawyer is in the case of needing a divorce. Divorce can be a very messy process, so it’s imperative that there is a family lawyer involved who knows the ins and outs of divorce and can help the couple reach an arrangement that works for both parties.
In a divorce, there are so many issues that can arrange which require the professional advice of a family lawyer. One of the biggest issues being who gains legal custody of any children the couple may have.
Similar to marriage, a civil union is an arrangement between two people that is recognised by law.
Civil unions have traditionally been a means for same-sex couples to legally become a partnership even if marriage isn’t an option.
While civil unions grant most of the same rights that marriage would, there are some differences. A family lawyer’s job in this instance is to outline what these rights are to the couple in question should they have any queries.
Adoption is another important process that a family lawyer will need to be familiar with.
Since it’s such a big responsibility to adopt responsibility for a child’s life and upbringing, family lawyers are required to ensure the adoption process runs smoothly.
There are many legal ramifications regarding adoption, and it can be quite complex in some cases so that’s why families need the help of a family lawyer.
A family lawyer will know all about the various types of adoption, what makes someone eligible for adopting, and what the adoption laws are in various areas.
Surrogacy is another area under the remit of family lawyers, and it refers to the process of a woman giving birth to a child, and then handing it over to someone else the moment it is born.
There are two types of surrogacy, partial and total, and there are processes individuals must go through to become the legal parents of a surrogate child.
Then there are all the various issues that revolve around surrogate arrangements, such as what happens if the surrogate is abroad and the legality of a surrogacy agreement, all of which a family lawyer is expected to know about.
Is family law in-demand?
Yes, as a field of law that is perhaps less popular than criminal law or property law, family law will generally be an underserviced field
But the demand for it is still very high - why?
Well, take divorce for example. A high percentage of marriages unfortunately end in divorce, which in the eyes of family lawyers means more work.
There will always be marital disputes, adoption and surrogacy issues, and parental custody arguments to resolve as a family lawyer so you will likely never be short of work if you know what you’re doing.
If you’re interested to know what some of the other most in-demand fields of law are, here are just a few to explore further:
How do you become a family lawyer?
To become a family lawyer, you’ll need to be interested in resolving legal issues pertaining to families, and of course, have a hunger to learn about laws and how to navigate them in various situations.
The annual salary of a family lawyer usually creeps into six-figure sums, so if you’re worried about whether it’s a lucrative field to explore, that should put your mind at rest.
As to the specific steps you’ll need to take to embark on the journey to become a family lawyer, here are some we’d recommend:
- First, you’re going to need to complete an undergraduate degree in Law, which should take between 3-4 years. This is non-negotiable, as it lays the foundational knowledge you’ll need to succeed in any field of law.
- Next, PLT (Practical Legal Training) is necessary which should take you around a year to complete.
- Then you’ll have to apply to your local law society for a Practising Certificate that will allow you to practise law, and you’ll also need to be admitted into the admissions authority in your area.
- Now comes the real task, you must undergo up to two years of supervised practice with a law firm, preferably one that specialise in family law though this isn’t necessary.
- As a practising lawyer, you can then specialise in family law and even go and get a Master of Law in the subject if you want to boost your chances of landing a job.
As you can see, the journey can be long, but once you get to the end you will be able to settle into a job and practise family law.
Main reasons to study family law
So you’re on the fence about family law, and you’re wondering if it’s for you. It sounds interesting, but you aren’t sure if you want to commit to this field or try another. With that in mind, here are some of the most compelling reasons to stick with family law and give it a shot:
- You deal with individuals
Many fields of law require the lawyer to protect or defend huge entities or organisations, which can of course seem sterile and devoid of a personal touch.
This isn’t the case with family law.
This is a field of law in which you will get to have interactions with your average joe, and help bring families together and make sure everything runs smoothly.
It’s a job that requires compassion, and a degree of social competence since you will often meet face-to-face with emotionally charged clients looking for the best outcome and hoping you can deliver it.
- It can have a huge positive impact
As a result of the personal interactions and nature of the work, family lawyers can create a huge positive impact on families.
Family lawyers are the intermediaries who get to ensure children are matched with new parents, which is an immensely gratifying experience.
Of course, the outcome won’t always be exactly what the people you deal with are looking for, so you have to be mindful of that too.
But generally speaking, protecting the most vulnerable people in society and upholding the law as it pertains to families can be very fulfilling on a personal and professional level.
- You pick up many transferable skills
Dealing with emotionally charged people and situations is tough, there’s no way to sugarcoat it.
However, through navigating these challenging social situations you will undoubtedly pick up many useful skills along the way the majority of which you will be able to carry over into your personal life and into future jobs.
You will learn how to negotiate, how to communicate when emotions are running high, and how to deliver results in a high-pressure situation.
- It can be a lucrative field
Since family law is generally an underserviced field, and much of the time the cases put in front of family lawyers will be straightforward enough to complete in a relatively short space of time. As such, it can be very lucrative, and as we mentioned earlier you won’t have a shortage of work as a family lawyer given the high number of divorces and family-related issues out there.
Superprof has many qualified law tutors you can work with online or in-person, so if you want to explore the field of family law further you can do so easily through the website.
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