A divorce lawyer is an attorney who represents people going through a divorce. To the general public, the words lawyer and attorney mean the same thing and are used interchangeably. Technically, a lawyer is someone who graduated from law school, and an attorney is someone with a law degree who also passed the Bar exam and is licensed to practice law.
If you are thinking about getting divorced or your spouse has already started the process, then you should find a lawyer who focuses his or her practice on divorces. You want someone to explain your option, give advice, and represent you. This attorney should have the legal expertise and real world experience in handling these kinds of cases. You wouldn’t go to an ear doctor if you broke your foot, even though they both went to medical school. Similarly, all lawyers in New Mexico had to graduate from law school and pass the Bar exam to get a license to practice law, but most attorneys concentrate in specific areas of law.
Divorce lawyers are also referred to as a family law attorneys, domestic relations attorneys, matrimonial lawyers, and other names. Such lawyers also handle custody and visitation cases where the parents are not married to each other. They also usually represent clients in domestic violence cases, grandparent visitation or guardianship cases, legal separations, etc. Basically, if the situation involves a family breaking up or raising children, most divorce lawyers can handle it. Note that not all family law attorneys handle adoptions.
Some lawyers who truly focus their practices on divorce, custody and family law matters take the extra steps to obtain recognition for their expertise in this area of law. New Mexico has a Board Certification in Family Law that is only available to attorneys who have been practicing in this field for a certain number of years, take additional Continuing Legal Education courses every year, and have been acknowledged by their peers and judges as being highly competent as a divorce and family law attorney. The application for certification is reviewed by a panel, and not everyone is approved.
There are also national organizations that have their own criteria, and sometimes an exam, for recognizing lawyers who are at the top of the field, such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).
The bottom line is that you want a lawyer who knows divorce and family law, who has practical experience in representing clients going through a divorce, and who is acknowledged by other lawyers and judges as being at the top of the field. This is your life – why wouldn’t you want the best legal representation you can obtain and afford?