A family law paralegal assists attorneys who practice family court cases. The paralegal may do legal research, investigate the facts of a given case the attorney is trying, draft letters or other documents to the clients, or otherwise assist an attorney in his representation of a client. Family law is a situation in which low-income people sometimes need legal help and cannot afford an attorney, so family law paralegals may also work in clinics without the help of an attorney or otherwise provide legal assistance such as helping a client to fill out forms. Under the law in the United States, paralegals are not permitted to give legal advice.
Family law attorneys handle a number of different cases. Common issues handled include divorce cases, child custody cases, child abuse cases, child neglect or endangerment cases, allegations of domestic violence, cases in which children commit crimes, or any other situation in which the legal issue is primarily a matter between family members. These attorneys may have to do a number of things to assist their clients, and a family law paralegal will assist in doing all of the tasks.
In a divorce case, for example, an attorney may need to prove his client's spouse is hiding assets. He may also need to prove there is legal precedent for nullifying a prenuptial agreement in situations similar to the situation the client is in. In general, in every situation, there are two main things a family law attorney must do to prove his client's case: he must collect data on the facts in the situation and he must research what the law is and how the law has been applied in similar situations so he can urge the court to apply the law in that manner in the given case.
A family law paralegal can help with all of these tasks. The family law paralegal, for example, may hire a private investigator and direct that investigator to gather information on a spouse's infidelity or on the spouse's smuggling of money out of joint bank accounts. On the other hand, the family law paralegal may conduct legal research using law books or online databases such as Lexis Nexis and Westlaw to find cases in which a judge has dealt with a similar situation. Since the US court system is a common law system that will follow existing precedent or rulings made by earlier judges, identifying the manner in which a judge has applied the law in a similar case can be essential to helping a client.