Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Family Law

Why does everyone on this forum tell people to avoid this pr dharamsala02/28/17
You're dealing with people going through what will probably isthisit02/28/17
This is accurate. I did child support law and had cases wher kramer71602/28/17
opal, you need only read some of those threads to understand pauperesq02/28/17
Job is a job, but for me there are easier ways to earn money sjlawyer02/28/17
Difficult clients, uninteresting and unsophisticated work, themapmaster02/28/17
It is the absolute pigging worst. It drags and drain the li prodigy02/28/17
Your client is your enemy. Their spouse is your enemy. Oppos agentdalecooper02/28/17
I did high conflict high asset cases and the work is fairly cocolawyer03/01/17
If you approach every case like it's the Battle of Bunker Hi guyingorillasuit03/01/17
Even if you are settlement oriented attorney (which in famil cocolawyer03/06/17
People hate their children and do not want to spend money an fettywap03/01/17
Is family law as bad when you're working with indigent clien dharamsala03/04/17
Are you kidding? It is worse. They aren't getting billed at thirdtierlaw03/04/17
Not necessarily true. I actually practice family law at lega ajames03/04/17
Not sure if family "law" is really the practice of law or a lolwutjobs03/04/17
Well that gets a "it depends" answer. I did high conflict di cocolawyer03/06/17
that actually goes for a lot of areas of law - the low end i dingbat03/06/17
Unfortunately I have not seen a contract dispute. In Califor cocolawyer03/06/17
I never have, nor ever will, do litigation. I have represen dingbat03/06/17
What do you practice? cocolawyer03/06/17
not sh*tlaw dingbat03/06/17
If you are in transactional law, ie non-litigation you are p cocolawyer03/07/17
Has anyone done PFA (Protection from Abuse) cases? dharamsala03/07/17
Yes. I've only defended against them. There isn't a whole lo thirdtierlaw03/07/17
I have brought them and defended against them. In my jx, the typicallawyer366103/07/17
Fam law is about 97% of what I handle, I love it but that is nazlaw03/17/17
Nazlaw you forgot two of the most important lessons in famil themapmaster03/19/17
I agree. I used to honestly believe that I liked family law ruralattorney03/20/17
A big factor for me is that if there are children and the ma onehell03/20/17
Did you work at a legal aid non-profit? dharamsala03/20/17
Yes, I did. But I also know most of the solos in town and wh onehell03/20/17
What compelled you to leave legal aid? The pay? Abusive and dharamsala03/21/17
Accidental double-post onehell03/20/17
One of the biggest problems for me was the fact that one par ruralattorney03/20/17
Has anyone represented parents in termination of parental ri dharamsala03/20/17
I've done a lot of work around that issue. Almost all of it thirdtierlaw03/20/17
Are the clients as needy and abusive as those in custody, di dharamsala03/20/17
I've found them to either be extremely needy or indifferent. thirdtierlaw03/20/17
Termination cases, unless you are employed by legal aid, are ruralattorney03/20/17
Yeah, in my state these things are heard in juvenile court, onehell03/20/17
Is juvenile delinquency practice as soul-crushing as divorce dharamsala03/20/17
I don't think it's as bad. People who do it seem to enjoy it onehell03/20/17
Juvenile law will feel like family law when you get a bad ap themapmaster03/21/17
That sounds a lot like my state, themapmaster. ruralattorney03/21/17
I don't think Medicaid payments are fat. In fact, I am prett guyingorillasuit03/21/17
See http://www.schreyerlawfirm.com/test imonials/ groundlegal24303/22/17

dharamsala (Feb 28, 2017 - 4:27 pm)

Why does everyone on this forum tell people to avoid this practice area like the plague?

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isthisit (Feb 28, 2017 - 4:39 pm)

You're dealing with people going through what will probably be the sh!ttiest time period of their adult lives. There's a lot of emotions on both sides that will seeth into the proceedings.

If you throw kids in there, it's infinitely worse.

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kramer716 (Feb 28, 2017 - 4:50 pm)

This is accurate. I did child support law and had cases where there were blood feuds over, literally, two cents per month. In my cases most of the time it was all right, but the bad ones were the legal version of Stalingrad.

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pauperesq (Feb 28, 2017 - 5:17 pm)

opal, you need only read some of those threads to understand why.

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sjlawyer (Feb 28, 2017 - 5:20 pm)

Job is a job, but for me there are easier ways to earn money.

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themapmaster (Feb 28, 2017 - 6:07 pm)

Difficult clients, uninteresting and unsophisticated work, often bad pay. Cannot imagine better mortivation for studying hard in law school and getting into biglaw, than being exposed to family law.

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prodigy (Feb 28, 2017 - 8:39 pm)

It is the absolute pigging worst. It drags and drain the life out of you. If you are not careful you get depressed.

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agentdalecooper (Feb 28, 2017 - 8:49 pm)

Your client is your enemy. Their spouse is your enemy. Opposing counsel is your enemy. No one in your office wants to help you at all. The court doesn't want to help you at all.

It is a great breeding ground for mental illness and alcoholism.

I would rather work in insurance defense or collect judgments for a living over rank and file family law. Now, if you are talking high net worth family law clients the work can be more transactional and about financial planning. But even those can become urination contests.

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cocolawyer (Mar 1, 2017 - 12:56 am)

I did high conflict high asset cases and the work is fairly sophisticated. Low level family law is unsophisticated. That being said clients are unbearable. Opposing party horrible. Opposing counsel are unenthical. The court are morons. Its a mine field of depression I started to have mental health issues due to it. You have to be a douche to actually enjoy family law

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guyingorillasuit (Mar 1, 2017 - 1:40 am)

If you approach every case like it's the Battle of Bunker Hill, you will not enjoy family law.

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cocolawyer (Mar 6, 2017 - 3:12 pm)

Even if you are settlement oriented attorney (which in family law you should be)high conflict litigation is fairly typical. If you don't treat it like a battle in those cases your client will get ram rodded.

Frankly, I think the states and counties should allocate money to the court system to hire about 10 family law attorneys per county (exception major counties will need more). The would act as arbitrators.

Two zealous attorneys representing two d bag clients is not really what is best for the families.

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fettywap (Mar 1, 2017 - 10:17 am)

People hate their children and do not want to spend money and effort to obtain custody of them. You tell a client he needs to pay child support, or she has to allow visitation, and they think you're the enemy and support the other side. The couple aren't over each other and do stupid things to 'win' or get attention from the spouse who doesn't want them anymore.

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dharamsala (Mar 4, 2017 - 11:47 am)

Is family law as bad when you're working with indigent clients in legal aid?

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thirdtierlaw (Mar 4, 2017 - 12:49 pm)

Are you kidding? It is worse. They aren't getting billed at all so they'll abuse you even more.

The only advantage is that you can carry a much lighter caseload and not need to collect payment.

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ajames (Mar 4, 2017 - 5:38 pm)

Not necessarily true. I actually practice family law at legal aid- I don't take abuse from anybody. I set boundaries at the onset of the case, and if the boundaries are crossed, I will move to be relieved without a second thought. The great thing about my legal aid office is that I have a lot discretion in what cases I accept- I do a good job of weeding out the crazies and weirdos from the get go. However, of course some will show their true colors after the case is accepted, but unless a final trial scheduled, it isn't to late to get relieved ( I know jurisdictions vary).

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lolwutjobs (Mar 4, 2017 - 6:50 pm)

Not sure if family "law" is really the practice of law or a contest for who can cry/yell the loudest. Also, clients and opposing counsel are genuinely the worst. At least in NJ.

Edit: you also don't really learn/develop any transferable skills (although there are a lot of court appearances)

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cocolawyer (Mar 6, 2017 - 3:06 pm)

Well that gets a "it depends" answer. I did high conflict dissolution cases with high assets. We did discovery like general civil litigation. This includes every discovery device in the arsenal.

I have first chair trial experience on multi-million dollar asset cases. Did Motion in Limine on a normal basis. That being said, low level Family Law is just a Sh** show. The attorneys generally know nothing. Its basically a mud slinging contest. These are usually DVRO and Custody related cases. I have no clue how you commit malpractice on these cases. Someone successfully stating but if not for you failure, they would have got sole custody...a DVRO...in a purely equity/discretion of the court scenario is nearly impossible. I think that is why you have so many unknowledgeable family law attorneys.

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dingbat (Mar 6, 2017 - 3:11 pm)

that actually goes for a lot of areas of law - the low end is sh*tty and the high end is serious.
ever seen a small-claims-court hearing on a contract dispute?

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cocolawyer (Mar 6, 2017 - 4:39 pm)

Unfortunately I have not seen a contract dispute. In California small claims cases are unrepresented. You can't even have counsel. So I imagine with a bunch of uneducated pro per running around it is pretty craptacular.

My entire legal career has been in the Family Law arena. This is my first day at DCSS...stress level non-existent. I have a stack of cases that calculations are already run on. I am literally just paid to sling paper...and unartfully so. I am just glad I am out of the private litigation of Family Law. The stress plus the type of law made me want to kill myself.

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dingbat (Mar 6, 2017 - 4:51 pm)

I never have, nor ever will, do litigation.
I have represented myself in traffic matters and minor contractual disputes, which have always been godawful experiences

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cocolawyer (Mar 6, 2017 - 5:01 pm)

What do you practice?

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dingbat (Mar 6, 2017 - 5:11 pm)

not sh*tlaw

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cocolawyer (Mar 7, 2017 - 8:08 pm)

If you are in transactional law, ie non-litigation you are practicing sh*t law.

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dharamsala (Mar 7, 2017 - 4:21 pm)

Has anyone done PFA (Protection from Abuse) cases?

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thirdtierlaw (Mar 7, 2017 - 4:30 pm)

Yes. I've only defended against them. There isn't a whole lot of money to be made in that line of work. Most states have streamlined the process where a police officer will help a victim fill out the court forms. Most of the hearings turn into an evidentiary nightmare where two pro se litigants just start throwing mud at each other while the court attempts to act like a referee and figure out even the basic facts of the case.

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typicallawyer3661 (Mar 7, 2017 - 9:16 pm)

I have brought them and defended against them. In my jx, they are extremely easy to get. Thirdtierlaw is correct...evidentiary nightmare. Sometimes they are used as a weapon in a bitter divorce. The messed up part from a criminal defense standpoint is that if you are defending one and also defending a pending criminal charge, your client cannot take the stand without potentially incriminating themselves in the future criminal proceeding.

I get why they are needed. However judges in my jx grant them far too often because the burden of proof is so low.

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nazlaw (Mar 17, 2017 - 8:56 am)

Fam law is about 97% of what I handle, I love it but that is because every day is a study on human psychology and I'm very likely masochistic to some degree. You will hit some of the darkest coldest circles of Hell, straight up Judas Iscariot type stuff. You will also meet some of the kindest individuals, that you actually feel like helping, however most likely you will not be able to help them.

Don't get emotional

If people hate you, you are doing your job properly

ALWAYS read orders, especially Temp ones, with a care (when one side drafts they sometimes "overlook/Forget" and leave out things.

Not your monkey not your circus: YOU NEED this mindset

Don't get emotional (seriously plenty of emotion from all sides, don't do it)

Even if your client is a decent person, you will likely see the worst side of them and understand the other sides animosity

Rarely is one side right or wrong, often both sides are wrong

Children can be manipulative little bastards

Children can be the most level headed and reasonable party in the entire matter

Children will surprise you by how much they know of both sides

Befriend the AFC (Law Guardian) they are your best friend, or worse enemy.

Manage your client, get ahead of their crazy and direct it.

Take time to counsel your client. The idea of meeting your client right before the appearance and forgetting about them till next time leads to you looking like a fool.

Pre Trial conferences are there to push settlements, so discuss settlement options (Lots of them) with your client PRIOR to those PTCs. Having to run out to check with your client about every possible stipulation makes your look unprepared

The Judge really does not give two damns about any thing in the matter except children, costs, and time.

Sometimes is easier to play the Judge than the opposing side.

Lastly, and here is the biggest issue with Fam Law. Sides very often WANT to be HEARD. If you make your client feel Heard AND Understood prior to trial it is likely you can move them to settlement, if not even normally logical/ reasonable people will insist on "getting their day in court."

Side note: PFA= Family Offense? If so then...

Family Offenses are a sh*# show. No one wins, and testimony is either blatantly fabricated, horribly one sided (10% of them if lucky), or useless. Very rarely will there be any evidence and often times both sides have reasons to conceal / hide needed information.
I only ever once had a Law and Order type on the stand confession (pro se), I kid you not the Judge interrupted this guys testimony and asked if he didn't think it prudent to obtain an attorney, then stopped the hearing and set a continuation almost 7 weeks later.

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themapmaster (Mar 19, 2017 - 1:47 am)

Nazlaw you forgot two of the most important lessons in family law that incidentally are also two of the most important in criminal law. Cash up front, and remember that your client will always be lying to you. The lie may be more or less subtle and the astute attorney is able to pick up on the lies, and their extent and consequence.

Also nazlaw I don't believe you that you like family law.

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ruralattorney (Mar 20, 2017 - 10:30 am)

I agree. I used to honestly believe that I liked family law. My family practice was doing well, and I had excellent client control. But one day I woke up and realized that even when family law is good, it's still really lousy. Ever since I got out I have realized how much greener the grass can be.

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onehell (Mar 20, 2017 - 12:35 pm)

A big factor for me is that if there are children and the matter is high-conflict, the case never ends. I've literally gone to trial in a custody dispute, obtained a verdict, and had the opposing party petition to modify the decree based on "emergency, changed circumstances" the very next day.

Every time one parent is five minutes late to a visitation exchange, every time one parent allegedly badmouths the other to the child, every time a medical/education/religious decision needs to be made, every time someone's income changes, and every time someone wants to move, the parties are back in court. This is the norm when poor people fight for custody, and poor people fighting for custody is what walks in the door when you're a newbie. You have to get ruthless with withdrawing when retainers are depleted, and even if the court does let you out, you can expect a bar complaint if the withdrawal has left your former client pro per.

And it is a trap of a practice area. New solos tend to fall into it because that is what walks in the door and it's relatively easy to pick up the basics. Before you know it, it's all you know how to do, and it's not experience that readily translates into something else.

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dharamsala (Mar 20, 2017 - 12:43 pm)

Did you work at a legal aid non-profit?

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onehell (Mar 20, 2017 - 12:47 pm)

Yes, I did. But I also know most of the solos in town and what they saw was not much different. People are broke these days. They would fork over their last dime to plunk down a few thousand bucks for a retainer with some local solo, and come to us when that ran out. It's not like we were seeing different classes of people in terms of what would walk in the door at legal aid vs. the small local firms. No one I knew could build a practice just taking family law cases with significant assets. There aren't enough middle and upper-middle class people to go around and a lot of the ones that are still out there are actually just in debt up to their eyeballs from keeping up appearances.

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dharamsala (Mar 21, 2017 - 3:41 pm)

What compelled you to leave legal aid? The pay? Abusive and demanding family law clients? lol

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onehell (Mar 20, 2017 - 12:36 pm)

Accidental double-post

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ruralattorney (Mar 20, 2017 - 1:48 pm)

One of the biggest problems for me was the fact that one party could violate a court order but the court would not catch up to it until months later. As long as you weren't putting someone in imminent risk of harm, the courts just didn't care enough to do something quickly.

If the harm was being done to your client, this put you in a tough spot. You can't encourage your client to violate a court order in response, but they would be understandably upset when their ex is getting away with murder while you are awaiting a court date that is months out.

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dharamsala (Mar 20, 2017 - 2:34 pm)

Has anyone represented parents in termination of parental rights cases?

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thirdtierlaw (Mar 20, 2017 - 2:44 pm)

I've done a lot of work around that issue. Almost all of it is court appointed work. The reality is that wealthy families rarely find themselves in that position. What questions do you have?

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dharamsala (Mar 20, 2017 - 3:24 pm)

Are the clients as needy and abusive as those in custody, divorce and support actions?

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thirdtierlaw (Mar 20, 2017 - 4:00 pm)

I've found them to either be extremely needy or indifferent. Your relationship with your client is much closer to that of criminal defense attorney and defendant. You are the only person fighting for them against the big bad state. So you don't really see the abusive side as much, especially because they are not paying you for your services.

That is not to say that the cases aren't without serious frustrations. DCF workers can be terrible or great. Some will make it their life mission to stop any steps towards reunification, then you'll have others who will bend over backward to make it happen. The State is just along for the ride.

The number 1 cause for TPR proceedings is drug related issues. So that is your client population. They will blatantly lie to you. They will withhold information from you. They'll be doing really well and making progress to then blow off a week's worth of visits to go on a bender 2 weeks before the TPR final hearing.

Or you get clients who won't return a single phone call, visit with their kids, and then show up the day of the final hearing to contest the TPR. All of that cumulates in them screaming to the judge that you're working with the State and haven't done anything to help them.

Working in the juvenile court can be extremely rewarding at times. It can also be the most frustrating place in the world to practice. You'll find that most of it is contract work for the State. Due to conflicts, the PD's office will take one parent and you'll end up with another. You'll find that the pay is nowhere near worth the energy that needs to go into preparing the case well. It is a timesink unlike any other area of law.

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ruralattorney (Mar 20, 2017 - 2:51 pm)

Termination cases, unless you are employed by legal aid, are a grind. To do them correctly, you really should put in a lot of hours. But of course the state is not going to pay you what you deserve for putting in those hours.

And at least in my state, by the time the state is seeking to terminate parental rights, there is a TON of evidence against the parents.

Can you make a living doing them? Yes. Can you make a living doing them well? That's up for debate.

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onehell (Mar 20, 2017 - 3:42 pm)

Yeah, in my state these things are heard in juvenile court, not family court, and although private actions are theoretically possible they are incredibly rare. These are 99.999% cases that arise from CPS actions, meaning the plaintiff is going to be a prosecutor and the defense is going to be either a public defender or a panel lawyer, as there is a constitutional right to counsel despite the technically civil nature of the action.

It's really more of a criminal law practice area than a family law one, at least in my state. And outside of NY, "legal aid" generally refers to civil legal aid, not the public defender.

So really, this question is more about whether you can make a living doing all kinds of indigent defense on contract. That probably varies infinitely by jurisdiction.

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dharamsala (Mar 20, 2017 - 5:54 pm)

Is juvenile delinquency practice as soul-crushing as divorce/support/custody? I taught at-risk teens at an urban high school before law school, so I'm drawn to the work.

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onehell (Mar 20, 2017 - 7:27 pm)

I don't think it's as bad. People who do it seem to enjoy it actually, particularly if you are just taking private-pay clients as opposed to trying to get on the panel for the appointments.

After all, it's juvie court, which is a "problem solving" court. If they wanted to nail your client to the cross they would have charged the kid as an adult. The proceedings are inherently less hostile.

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themapmaster (Mar 21, 2017 - 1:54 pm)

Juvenile law will feel like family law when you get a bad appointment, with even worse pay. In my state the contract rate for juvenile appointments is the same as it was 30 years ago. Meanwhile in the past 30 years the market billing rate has gone way up, and it is now over three times as much as the contract rate. The pathetic rate shows you how lawyers are valued by my state, as compared to doctors taking fat Medicaid payments. At best if your primary area is juvenile appointments in my state, your practice will be at the very margins of existence and you won't be able to afford a secretary. There really is no hope in this area of the law in my state and if you do it, it needs to be a side gig that you just do a bit of when you're bored of something else that can actually supports you. Better to become a nurse or a small business owner or truck driver or something than screw around with bottomless pit of juvenile law.

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ruralattorney (Mar 21, 2017 - 2:46 pm)

That sounds a lot like my state, themapmaster.

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guyingorillasuit (Mar 21, 2017 - 3:27 pm)

I don't think Medicaid payments are fat. In fact, I am pretty sure they are quite the opposite of fat. I was told you need to run a special kind of practice to take Medicaid patients - cattle call them in, and spend no more that 2-3 minutes on each one.

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groundlegal243 (Mar 22, 2017 - 7:34 am)

See http://www.schreyerlawfirm.com/testimonials/

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