Child custody lawyers work in a number of capacities depending upon whether they represent the government, one of the parents, or the child. Private family lawyers tend to earn higher salaries than government attorneys or guardians ad litem.
Some child custody cases require government intervention. In cases involving neglect or abuse, a state social worker becomes involved to investigate the case. The social worker reports to a government lawyer tasked with handling such cases, who then advocates the state’s position on the best child custody arrangement in light of the evidence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a chief prosecutor is approximately $98,000 a year. Mean salaries range from $165,700 for chief prosecutors in large areas to less than $45,000 per year for prosecutors working part-time.
Parents involved in child custody cases often retain a private attorney to represent their interests in the child custody hearing. In nearly every state, it is considered unethical for an attorney to charge a contingency fee for representation in domestic matters. Most family law attorneys work on an hourly basis or for a flat fee. According to the American Bar Association, the average annual salary for lawyers working in private firms is $104,000.
Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem is a representative for children involved in child custody or domestic relations litigation. Many lawyers choose to serve as a guardian ad litem on a pro bono basis, meaning without pay. Some states have reserved limited funding to compensate guardians ad litem for time served on the case.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, attorney positions are expected to grow 10% from 2010 to 2020. The greatest factor affecting job growth over the next few years continues will be budgetary restraints, particularly in the U.S. government and state level jobs. Tight budgets will likely lead to fewer job opportunities, while a rise in spending should lead to a greater number of jobs.