Education and Licensing
Divorce attorneys need to graduate from law school, which requires a total commitment of seven years of post-secondary education. After graduating from college, prospective law students take the law school standardized admissions test, or LSAT, and apply to law school. During law school, they focus on courses including divorce law, family law, and ethics. Students complete several internships or clerkships with firms handling divorce law in conjunction with their studies. After earning a juris doctor degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association they must pass the bar exam in every state in which they want to work.
Divorce attorneys work exclusively in civil law, representing only one party involved in divorce proceedings. They work on related matters, such as child custody disputes, wills, trusts, and leases, as these issues relate to the pending divorce. Divorce lawyers spend much of their day conducting research, gathering evidence, drafting paperwork and filing documents with the court. Divorce lawyers review client paperwork including a client’s past tax returns, net worth statements, retirement plan summaries, prenuptial agreements, real estate tax bills, medical insurance information and stocks, bonds and brokerage accounts. They advise and represent their clients at settlement conferences and in front of judges.
As trained legal professionals, 1solicitors – divorce lawyers must be levelheaded in a crisis. Tempers flare, and emotions run rampant during divorce proceedings and the divorce attorney is often the one who brings an objective eye and critical thinking skills to the situation. Due to a large amount of information divorce attorneys have to sift through, skills such as time management and the ability to analyze and synthesize data are essential. A divorce attorney must be “people-oriented” to win confidence and respect from her clients, opposing counsel, other litigants and the court itself.
Salary and Outlook
Neither the BLS nor the American Bar Association report salary information specific to divorce attorneys. The State of Michigan Bar Association indicated that in 2010, the top 10 percent of family lawyers, which include divorce attorneys, charged $300 per hour while the lowest charged $150 per hour. Their median annual wage in May 2010 was $112,760 with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $54,130 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $166,400. Job growth is predicted to increase by 10 percent between 2010 and 2020, compared to 14 percent for all other occupations. There’s stiff competition for jobs because more students graduate each year from law school than leave the profession. Many new graduates are accepting part time or contract positions in lieu of full time work.
it makes a lot of sense to hire a lawyer if there is a real problem with abuse – spousal, child, sexual or substance abuse. in these situations, it may be impossible for the abused spouse to negotiate effectively: A lawyer can help arrange the necessary protection for an abused spouse and the children, if any.
it can also make sense to hire a lawyer if your spouse is being dishonest or vindictive and you just can’t cope with it. in that case, you may need someone to protect your interests.
Finally, it’s prudent to hire a lawyer if your spouse has an attorney. This is especially true if you have children or are facing complicated financial issues. it could be difficult and emotionally intimidating to go head to head with a seasoned pro.
if you can’t afford a lawyer, consider calling your local legal aid office. if you qualify financially, a lawyer will (at a minimum) discuss the legal aspects of your case with you and may continue to answer questions on an ongoing basis during your proceedings while you represent yourself. Ask whether the legal aid office has a pro bono program. The office may have a list of private attorneys who are willing to take on cases referred by legal aid at little or no cost.