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A Guide to Becoming a Family Law Paralegal

Published on: Jun 8, 2024

Family law paralegals play a critical role in the success of family law attorneys by acting as their right hand, second set of eyes, and sounding board. These professionals help not only with pushing cases along but also with aiding attorneys and clients through their legal process. 

In this article, we will examine this position more closely, review the steps you may want to take to begin your career as a family law paralegal, discuss the common responsibilities of a family law paralegal, provide an overview of where a family paralegal works, and offer additional resources for continued education in the field.

Common Responsibilities of a Family Law Paralegal

When it comes to family law paralegals, these professionals deal primarily with family law issues, including:

  • Divorce

  • Parenting plans and rights, including child custody, support, visitation, and termination of parental rights

  • Property division

  • Adoptions

  • Guardianship

  • Restraining orders

A family law paralegal also plays a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of a law firm specializing in family law. The paralegal is frequently involved in a variety of tasks, including conducting legal research related to family issues such as divorce, child support, or adoptions, drafting legal documents related to custody agreements or divorce paperwork, organizing case files, and maintaining regular communication with clients.

Moreover, they can help in trial preparation, attend court proceedings, schedule appointments such as mediation, and facilitate negotiations between parties involved in a custody dispute or other issues related to the divorce.

Where Does a Family Law Paralegal Work?

Family paralegals work in various types of legal settings, including small and large law firms, government agencies that handle family law, such as child protective services and social services departments, and non-profit organizations, such as Lakeshore Legal Aid in Michigan that deal with child welfare and domestic violence. The type of work the paralegal will perform usually depends on the work setting.

For instance, a family paralegal may have multiple responsibilities in a small family law firm, including assisting with cases and performing administrative tasks such as maintaining the family law attorney’s calendar.

A Day in the Life of a Family Law Paralegal at a Small Law Firm

Family law is a broad field. Paralegals working in this area often assist family law attorneys with a wide range of matters, including divorce proceedings, financial issues, child custody arrangements, and occupation orders. These paralegals also support clients in private proceedings and assist them in applying for legal aid funding. 

However, while the specific responsibilities of a family law paralegal may vary depending on the position and the law firm, in general, these paralegals are typically responsible for the following duties:

  • Organizing documents received from clients and others for the family law attorney

  • Contacting new clients and opening files, then determining who will be attending court in person or remotely 

  • Drafting statements in support of a client application for a Child Arrangement Order

  • Working on tasks related to guardianships and adoptions 

  • Preparing exhibits for trials

  • Attending trials and providing the lawyer with any help they may need

  • Tracking deadlines

  • Communicating with clients to verify that their application covers their objectives

  • Reviewing and organizing the attorney’s schedule

Additionally, because family law cases often involve sensitive personal matters and heightened emotions, family paralegals must be able to approach their clients with compassion and empathy, recognizing that each person’s situation is unique.

Becoming a Family Law Paralegal

Family law is a unique area involving laws related to many types of relationships. If you are considering becoming a family law paralegal, you have various ways you can obtain the education and skills required to take on the tasks involved with this position.

For starters, many individuals embark on a career as a family law paralegal by obtaining a paralegal certificate or an associate degree in paralegal studies. Some employers may also prioritize hiring paralegals with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or equivalent, especially if they have no work experience in a legal setting or family law. In addition, because family law deals with specific legal subjects, it may also be beneficial that aspiring family law paralegals take courses in divorce, child custody, and even estate planning to better prepare for the tasks that they may handle.

However, while education plays a vital role in securing a family law paralegal position, paralegal associations, such as NALA The Paralegal Association, also recognize that internships are an important component of the educational process. They often recommend that individuals get a paralegal internship of at least six months in the chosen area of law. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), these internships allow students to use skills acquired in the program and to gain on-the-job experience.

Professional certifications from NALA also add value to a family law paralegal's experience and education and can show potential employers that these paralegals have an advanced understanding and competency in the legal field. However, when students pursue these certifications, they should look for specific family law certificate programs that offer courses in marriage and pre-marital agreements, spousal support and division of marital property, and annulment and legal separation.

Earning Potential, Salary and Compensation Expectations

The average annual salary for a family law paralegal in the United States is around $60,964 but often ranges between $36,000 and $86,000. However, this amount can differ significantly depending on several factors, such as experience level, location, certifications, and education. For instance, large firms generally pay higher salaries than small family law firms, and cities in California, on average, have higher salaries for family law paralegals (San Francisco, $75,317 annual salary; Beverly Hills, $74,268 yearly salary; San Jose, $72,827 yearly salary).

Challenges and Opportunities

Although family law can provide paralegals with opportunities and stability, there are some challenges to practicing as a family law paralegal.

Emotionally Taxing

Working with individuals going through an intense emotional situation can be draining. Family law paralegals often deal with clients at their most vulnerable, requiring significant emotional resilience.

Challenging Negotiations

Family issues involve complex legal maneuvering and negotiations, primarily in high-conflict custody or divorce. This can lead to time-consuming and stressful battles for paralegals.

Client Expectations

It is not uncommon for family law clients to have high expectations, which can sometimes be unrealistic. As a result, family law paralegals have to manage these expectations while still ensuring they provide the best legal assistance, which can be a delicate balancing act.

Nonetheless, despite these difficulties, this job does have many benefits. Family law paralegals are often known for making a significant difference in people’s lives. They deal with diverse issues and cases, making their work both challenging and stimulating.

Assessing Suitability for the Role

If you are contemplating a career as a family law paralegal but are uncertain if this path is right for you, a few questions can help you determine whether this choice will serve your needs.

Why do you want to pursue a career as a family law paralegal?

The answer to this question can help you determine what motivates you and how passionate you are about the career path.

Can you pay attention to small details?

Attention to detail is critical in family law. A good family law paralegal will be proficient in keeping appointments and deadlines, following up on cases, and recognizing when a file lacks crucial components. Paralegals should also be proactive, reviewing legal files thoroughly and communicating with clients about missing items.

Are you a good communicator?

Paralegals in family law often have to talk to clients on the phone or through email. As a result, they must always know their audience and ensure that messages are clear and not likely to be misinterpreted.

Can you be compassionate and open-minded?

It is common for family law paralegals to work with people from many different walks of life, including those who may be experiencing a difficult time. That is why anyone pursuing this line of work needs to possess empathy and patience, be willing to help others, and be there for their anxious clients.

Can you work as part of a team and independently?

The family law paralegal position often requires independent work and the ability to get along with other legal professionals. Those pursuing this position must be able to handle both situations while remaining calm and patient in each role.

Resources for Aspiring Family Law Paralegals

You can grow your career as a family law paralegal in numerous ways. However, one of the best ways is to participate in networking events and legal associations such as NALA or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), which can offer valuable insights into the latest trends and practices in family law. Finding a well-respected mentor to guide you and continuing your education can also help you stand out and gain a competitive edge.

Learn More About The Field Today

Family law covers several legal issues concerning marriage, divorce, child custody, and support. Those who enter this legal field are often tasked with providing emotional support to their clients while also assisting them in finding a just resolution.  

If you want to learn more about how you can become involved in this specific field or what steps you should take next to start your career as a family law paralegal, consider exploring the links and resources provided.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning