Family law paralegals work with lawyers to research prior cases and prepare legal arguments for spousal support, child support, child neglect, parental rights, adoption, surrogacy, common law marriage and divorce cases. Individuals interested in this type of career enroll in a paralegal degree program, obtain certification and gain employment at a private family law practice.
Complete a Paralegal Degree Program
Family law paralegal education is obtained by enrolling in a two-year associate degree program through a technical school or state college. The first year of the degree program consists of basic legal courses, such as drafting contracts, legal terminology, legal research, tort law, real estate, bankruptcy, civil law and criminal law. In the second year, students complete specialized family law courses, which cover such topics as prenuptial agreements, annulments, civil unions, paternity rights, adoption laws, child custody laws and marriage torts. Students also complete a course that allows them to clerk at a law office.
Obtain the Certified Paralegal (CP) Credential
After graduation, individuals may sit for the Certified Paralegal exam, which is given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The exam includes true/false, multiple-choice and matching questions on such topics as the court system, statutes, the appellate process, legal research, law citing, contracts, criminal law, civil law, bankruptcy, real estate law and family law. Individuals must achieve a passing score of 70 percent in order to receive their credential.
Gain Employment at a Private Family Law Practice
Once hired, family law paralegals research current state and federal laws, prior judicial decisions and published legal documents regarding family law. If the case goes to trial, they prepare by locating witnesses, obtaining affidavits, filing motions, drafting pleadings, preparing legal arguments and assisting lawyers in court.
Consider Advancement Options
Experienced paralegals advance their careers by going back to school to obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies through a university. Other advancement opportunities include a promotion to a managerial position or working for another firm to receive a higher salary and/or more responsibility. According to PayScale.com, certified paralegals with five to nine years of experience saw a median annual salary of $37,999 to $52,207 with a median hourly rate of $15.30 to $22.43, as of May 2011. In addition to earning a higher salary, many paralegals received benefits, such as paid bonuses, paid vacations, paid sick leave, medical and dental insurance, life insurance and tuition reimbursement for continuing legal education.