Legal Insurance

What Does a Family Law Attorney Do? 

3 min read
Jun 26, 2023

There are many types of lawyers you can work with depending on your legal issues or needs — including family law attorneys. Below, we explore reasons you may want to enlist a family lawyer.  

What is a family lawyer and what do they do?

A family lawyer helps with legal relationship matters between family members. They work as  advisors and advocates on behalf of their clients.1 These are some of the situations a family attorney can typically help with:  

Marriage, divorce, and separation 

Matters involving children

  • Draft child custody agreements or visitation rights 
  • Seek child support 
  • Establish paternity 
  • Navigate adoption 
  • Obtain parental rights or grandparents’ rights 

Other legal relationship matters

Things to consider when hiring a family lawyer

It’s important to find a lawyer you trust. Here’s what else to consider. 

The lawyer’s background 

See if a lawyer you’re interested in hiring is certified in a certain area or represents client cases similar to yours.2 Read reviews and testimonials to get an idea of how other people’s experiences with a particular lawyer have been. Browse their website to get an idea of their successful cases and see if they’re related to your situation. You can also go to the website for the bar association in your area to find out more about local lawyers.2 You may be able to get referrals or see if a specific lawyer has any complaints against them. 

The consultation 

Take advantage of a consultation to see if you and a lawyer are the right fit for each other. Lawyers tend to provide these at low or no cost. During the consultation, you can get to know each other, ask specific questions, determine if you feel they’re invested in your case, and ask about potential fees associated with your case to see if it’s within your budget. Preparing for a lawyer consultation can help you get the most out of your time and money. 

What does a family law attorney charge?

Most lawyers charge an hourly rate, with the average fee landing at $391 an hour.3 A lawyer may also charge a retainer fee, essentially a downpayment, that they pull money from until it’s used up, and then they charge an hourly rate. Some lawyers choose a different form of payment for their services, such as a flat fee or a contingency fee — which is a percentage of what you’re awarded after your case is over. 

Costs depend on many factors, including your location, how the lawyer prefers to charge for their services, their experience and expertise, and how long or complex your case is. 

Bottom line: When might you enlist the help of a family law attorney?

Simple things — like a name change or filing a simple document in court — may not require the help of a lawyer. But if you’re in a situation where more complex and important decisions are on the table, having an experienced family law attorney may help. Even if you and your family members mutually agree on the action being taken, it can still help to have a lawyer by your side.  Just know that, generally, opposing parties can’t share an attorney — even in an amicable situation where you’re hoping to save money on lawyer fees.

If you need a family law attorney but aren’t sure if hiring one is within your budget, see if your employer offers a legal plan. These plans provide low-cost access to lawyers who can help with a wide range of legal matters.

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This article is intended to provide general information about insurance. It does not describe any Metropolitan Life Insurance company product or feature.

1 “Family Law,” New York City Bar, 2020

2 “How Do I Find a Lawyer?,” American Bar Association, 2022

3 Average hourly rate of $391.00 based on years of legal experience, National Law Journal and ALM Legal Intelligence, Survey of Law Firm Economics (2021).