what is a family lawyer?

As a family lawyer, you specialise in family law, a type of civil law that handles issues related to relationships and families. You represent your client during the dissolution of marriage and handle issues related to the marriage, like child custody, child support and the division of assets. You negotiate terms for dissolving the marriage and represent your client before a judge.

Aside from handling marriage and civil partnership issues, you also help parents adopt children or give a child up for adoption. In the adoption process, you help pass on the legal rights of the children to the adoptive parents and ensure informed consent for the adoption has been given.

Since family law involves sensitive issues, emotions are usually high. As a family lawyer, you empathise with your clients and offer emotional support to help them through the court proceedings. Some clients are usually devastated during the divorce process and make irrational decisions. It is your job to protect their rights and ensure they get a fair settlement in property division and favourable terms in child custody.

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average family lawyer salary

The average remuneration package of a family lawyer in Australia is $110,000 per year. In a junior-level position, you start with a salary of $100,000 per year. With extensive experience, your earnings increase gradually, and you can make over $120,000 annually.

what factors affect the salary of a family lawyer?

As a family lawyer, your earnings depend on experience and qualifications. When you work under the supervision of an experienced lawyer, you are likely to start with an entry-level salary. If you have a licence and are a member of the Australian Bar Association, you earn a higher remuneration package. When you have a few years of experience, you have the expertise to negotiate a higher remuneration.

The duties and responsibilities in the role also influence your earnings. When you handle divorce settlements with property division, the additional tasks associated with them increase your earnings. Clients with substantial assets require valuations for the properties before division.

Demand for family lawyers in metro areas also improves your salary prospects. In a smaller city, you handle fewer cases, and the low demand for family lawyers significantly reduces your earnings.

Want to know what you will earn as a family lawyer? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.


types of family lawyers

As a family lawyer, you can specialise in specific family-related matters. For instance, some family lawyers handle marriage and civil partnerships. Your job is to register a civil partnership or prepare a binding pre-civil partnership or financial agreement before marriage. You also represent your client in Federal Circuit Court proceedings.

During dissolution of marriage, you represent one of the partners in the court proceedings associated with divorce. You handle child custody issues by representing the child to ensure their rights are protected. Divorce also brings about the division of property, and it is your job to ensure your client receives a fair share of the property.

Some family lawyers focus on the adoption process. In adoption, the biological parents relinquish their legal rights to the adoptive parents. You assist with legally terminating parental rights and ensuring all the adoption documents are accurate.

women in an office meeting
women in an office meeting

working as a family lawyer

Curious about being a family lawyer? Here’s a breakdown of the duties, responsibilities and work environments associated with the role


education and skills

To become a family lawyer, start with a bachelor of law degree. If you have an undergraduate degree in a different field, get a Juris Doctor postgraduate degree to gain legal knowledge. After the degree course, complete the Practical Legal Training (PLT) within three months to get a practising certificate from your local law society. For instance, in New South Wales, you can gain admission by applying to the Legal Profession Admission Board and joining the Law Society of New South Wales.

When you have a Practising Certificate, you should practise law for 24 months under the supervision of an experienced lawyer. While it’s not compulsory to work at a family law firm, it will improve your expertise in family law.

family lawyer skills and competencies

Family lawyers require the following skills and traits to excel in the role:

  • mediation: as a family lawyer, you are the neutral third party in divorce and custody battles. You require mediation skills to deal with emotionally charged situations and facilitate amicable resolutions. With a balance of empathy and legal acumen, you can preserve relationships while steering the legal process to be more collaborative.
  • legal research: as a family lawyer, you prepare arguments and provide legal advice to clients. Before you go to court, you gather and analyse case laws, review your client’s case, and find legal precedents and statutes to create compelling arguments for court. Legal research also helps you develop strategies that improve your client's best interests.
  • communication skills: as a family lawyer, you need excellent communication skills to speak with clients, negotiate settlements and argue cases in court. Aside from verbal communication, your written communication should be exceptional in preparing legal documents.
  • emotional intelligence: as a family lawyer, you handle marriage, divorce and sensitive custody issues. You require empathy to handle emotional issues that arise during cases. It is also important to provide emotional support to your clients throughout the legal process.

FAQs about working as a family lawyer

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a family lawyer.

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