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How Long Do Family Lawyers Go to School?

by Maria Magher, studioD

Family lawyers provide assistance on matters such as divorce proceedings, custody disputes and spousal support agreements. Similar to other lawyers, they must complete a J.D. -- or Juris Doctor -- degree in order to practice. Though there is no specialty degree for family lawyers, they can create their own specialization through the courses they take and the internships they complete.

What Family Lawyers Do

Family lawyers may sometimes appear in the courtroom on such matters as contentious divorce proceedings or custody hearings. However, the majority of the work they do will take place outside the courtroom and will be spent consulting with clients and drawing up paperwork for divorce settlements, custody arrangements, the division of assets and related issues. Family lawyers may sometimes represent a parent who accuses the other parent of child abuse.

Education for Family Lawyers

Every lawyer must complete a J.D. degree from an accredited law school. Typically, the degree takes three years to complete. Though part-time programs are uncommon, those that are available typically take four years to complete. Some students may take longer to finish their degree if they have to take a leave for a personal emergency or illness. Others may actually accelerate their degree by taking additional courses during the semester or over the summer.


Law schools do not typically provide students with a major. However, outside of the core classes that all students are required to take in a particular program, there are options for electives. Students who wish to practice family law can create a type of specialization by filling these electives with courses pertaining to family law. Students can further specialize by applying for and completing internships and taking summer jobs in the family law field.

Passing the Bar

The final step to becoming a lawyer is passing the bar exam in the state in which you wish to practice. Each state has its own bar exam, and some have a reputation for being tougher than others. In some states, you may also be required to pass a separate test on ethics.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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