A divorce lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in issues pertaining to divorce, including divorce, dissolution, and annulment. Many divorce lawyers are family law practitioners, focusing on a variety of issues related to marriage and family, ranging from adoption to wills. People who are in the process of a legal separation are usually encouraged to retain a lawyer who is familiar with the process, to ensure that their legal rights are protected and to promote an amicable settlement, if possible.
In order to become a divorce lawyer, a lawyer must first attend law school, ideally studying family law topics over the course of his or her education, and qualify to practice law by taking the bar exam. Most bar exams include a written exam and a character assessment to ensure that the candidate is morally fit to practice law. Once qualified, the lawyer will seek work in a practice which handles family law matters, getting practical experience in the field.
The first task of a divorce lawyer is usually the process of drawing up divorce papers when approached by one of the parties in a divorce with a request to do so. In some cases, couples mutually decide to divorce, in which case the couple may approach the lawyer together to ask for legal assistance, but in a more contentious divorce, the divorce lawyer will be consulted by one party only. The petition for dissolution or divorce can be served to the other party after it has been written up and signed by the person requesting the divorce.
One of the key aspects of this profession is the moderation of a settlement when a couple decides to dissolve a marriage. Part of the settlement will include the division of assets, discussions about child custody, and a settlement of alimony and/or child support. A divorce lawyer may also enforce a prenuptial agreement, or become involved in other stipulations of the divorce. If, for example, a couple has fertilized embryos in storage from an infertility treatment, the divorce lawyers for both sides would be involved in deciding what happens with those embryos.
In the case of a contentious divorce, a divorce lawyer may represent a client in court, and in specialized family courts which deal with family-related issues like adoption and child custody. A divorce lawyer may also assist his or her client with structuring a prenuptial agreement at the start of a marriage, ensuring that if the marriage does not end well, much of the legal groundwork for a reasonably amicable divorce will have been laid.