Over the last thirty years, the field of family law has experienced a tremendous expansion
of substantive law topics. While in the past being a family lawyer may have meant primarily handling divorce and custody cases, today's family law practitioner may choose from a wide variety of subspecialties, including adoption, genetics and reproduction, children's rights, elder law, tax planning, and many others.
At the same time, the role of family lawyers has also undergone dramatic changes. With the advent of no fault divorce laws, the lawyer no longer has to prove the other spouse guilty of wrongdoing before a marriage can be dissolved. This has allowed family lawyers to become mediators and counselors
; helping clients who are parents begin to build a working relationship with their ex-spouse for the sake of their children.
"You often see good people at their very worst during a divorce," says Professor Andrew Schepard, who teaches family law at Hofstra University School of Law. "The family lawyer has to help them stabilize to resume their normal functioning."
Many more options are available today in the areas of custody and support, and there are many more forms of dispute resolution accessible as well. These options have allowed the family law practitioner flexibility to use creative skills in finding solutions for each individual client.
In addition, the growing need for legal services and the increased efficiency of firms through technology have combined to make family law one of the most attractive fields for lawyers.
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