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Family law covers domestic violence, divorce, child law and financial settlement. A growing area in this legal sector is the breakdown of relationships between unmarried individuals, also known as cohabitation.
Child law can be broken down further into areas covering residence, parental contact and surrogacy issues. Lawyers can also choose public law work, working on issues relating to adoption, fostering and children in care.
Lawyers in public law will need a good working knowledge of mental health issues, welfare, criminal and education law. Lawyers working in the more financial side of family law will need to have good grounding in property, tax, trusts and pensions. Domestic violence lawyers will deal with matters such as injunctions and occupation orders.
Large, public cases may continue for several weeks while smaller cases tend to have hearings of between two and three days. Family law clients range from people with very little money and a custody battle to face, to wealthy, high-profile individuals, who want their case to remain out of the public eye.
What you can expect?
Lawyers have to be sympathetic and offer continuing support to their clients. Family is one of the more stressful areas of the law because it involves so much human emotion.
A client's judgement is often clouded by personal feeling - they may be oblivious to logical argument and this is certainly a challenge. But dealing with real-life problems is very rewarding, particularly when your efforts have an important impact attached, such as a client's custody and access rights to their child. Public childcare work can often be distressing - you may be called upon to represent children who are the victims of mental, physical or sexual abuse.
Tips for success
You will need:
- Sympathy & objectivity
- Tact & understanding
- Listening skills
- Ability to remain level-headed in harrowing situations
- Organisation skills
- Ability to prioritise