What to Expect in Family Law?
What to Expect in Family Law?
Answers based off an interview with a prominent, London based family law solicitor.
Not to open this on a dampener, but as everybody knows, divorce rates are at an all-time high. It is now recorded that the average Australian marriage lasts for 12 years. Furthermore, in 2018 there were only 118,401 marriages and a whopping 46,604 divorces. While family law has always been an essential part of the legal field, it's only becoming increasingly relevant as social demographics shift.
Family lawyers advise on cases which are both complex and sensitive. So what can one really expect from a career in family law?
Its courtroom heavy
Court room hours are notoriously long for a family law solicitor. Representation in court can range from domestic abuse defence, custody issues, disputing a will or a fight over who gets to keep the 5-million-dollar yacht (although yacht wars aren’t very common unfortunately). As ANU law students will know from the court reports they were assessed on for ‘Foundations of Australian Law’, a courtroom is not as exciting a place as one may think. Much of the time in court as a family law solicitor is spent waiting or negotiating with the other side. It’s a constant ‘tug of war’ and it’s not an area to get into if you lack patience and perseverance.
Buzz word: Empathy
Clients of a family lawyer are rarely in a happy place when they are seeking your advice. They may be in the midst of a relationship break-down or be told they are losing the right to see their own children. A family lawyer needs to remain unflappable yet empathetic. They need to seem understanding, yet not become emotional themselves. Sometimes content in a client interview can be confronting, however you will not be of much assistance to the client if you become upset yourself. You need to remain calm and focus on the best legal and financial outcome for your client. Most upsettingly, sometimes a client may be in a horrible circumstance, yet there is no viable legal action to take to rectify their situation. This can be a very disappointing aspect of family law.
Reap the rewards
Notwithstanding the above, family law can be immensely rewarding. Reuniting families, helping divorcées seek financial independence, and supporting someone legally through a tough time can be very meaningful work. It really is an area of the law which can focus on protecting and helping those in need. You can see some truly joyous moments amidst the tension and conflict. If you are interested in humans and how they interact with each other, this area of law is definitely for you.
Change is imminent
One of the key things to note about family law is that it changes rapidly. We must respond to updated legislation, shifts in government funding and changing demographics promptly. A great example of this is the introduction of contribution in divorce settlements which is happening in both the UK and Australia. It is rare that a financial settlement will be automatically determined as a 50/50 split in this day and age. One must determine the contribution both parties had in the growing of assets. By and large, domestic duties and child rearing are seen as just as valid a contribution as earning an income. However, determining the ratio between contribution can be difficult. This is an area of law that is getting redefined as time goes on, and we must be up to date with any new revelations as they come.
Family law is if nothing else, at least very dynamic. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a keen interest or believes they possess the necessary skills to forge a meaningful career in the area.