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Family Law Clinic   


Learn about Seton Hall Law Clinics

 

Center for Social Justice (CSJ)
[email protected] | 973-642-8700 or 973-761-9000 ext. 8700
833 McCarter Highway, Newark, NJ 07102

 

Number Name Credit Type Offering

CLIN7182

Family Law Clinic

The Family Law Clinic provides students with the opportunity to develop practice skills and an intensive understanding of various areas of family law practice. Students serve as counsel to clients in divorce and restraining order cases from original interview through final judgment. They are supervised in their activities by the clinic's attorneys, but have primary responsibility for the conduct of the case. Students draft all pleadings and make court appearances on behalf of their clients. The clinic offers training in techniques of advocacy and in legal ethics as well as providing an important service to those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal representation. The clinic is open to day and evening students who are the equivalent of a third year day student.

The course is letter-graded for both the clinical and class components.



Prerequisites: Minimum Cumulative 2.60 GPA, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, and Persuasion and Advocacy. NOTE: Students cannot participate in an externship in the same semester in which they are enrolled in a clinic.

 

4

Clinic

in-class

CLIN7183

Family Law Clinic

The Family Law Clinic provides students with the opportunity to develop practice skills and an intensive understanding of various areas of family law practice. Students serve as counsel to clients in divorce and restraining order cases from original interview through final judgment. They are supervised in their activities by the clinic's attorneys, but have primary responsibility for the conduct of the case. Students draft all pleadings and make court appearances on behalf of their clients. The clinic offers training in techniques of advocacy and in legal ethics as well as providing an important service to those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal representation. The clinic is open to day and evening students who are the equivalent of a third year day student.

The course is letter-graded for both the clinical and class components.



Prerequisites: Minimum Cumulative 2.60 GPA, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, and Persuasion and Advocacy. NOTE: Students cannot participate in an externship in the same semester in which they are enrolled in a clinic.

1

Clinic

in-class

 

Professor: Jessica Miles

Offered: Fall and spring semesters.

Credits: 5

INTRODUCTION

The Family Law Clinic provides free legal services to individuals needing representation in a variety of family law matters. The cases may include restraining orders; divorces; custody and visitation issues; and adoptions. Students may also serve as court-appointed law guardians for children in family law matters. Students work under the supervision of the clinical professor, but assume primary responsibility for their assigned cases, including court appearances.

Clinical Law Practice

Students work closely under the supervision of clinical faculty in all phases of case work from initial client interview through court decision or other case resolution. Students will interview and counsel clients, work with interpreters, interview witnesses, conduct fact investigations, engage in legal research and analysis, draft pleadings, motions and other legal documents, argue motions, conduct negotiations, participate in mediation, prepare clients and witnesses for trial, and represent clients at trial. Students may also conduct and defend depositions as well as draft and argue appellate briefs.

Students are required to spend a minimum of fifteen hours per week in practice during the spring and fall semesters.

Recent cases handled by students in the Family Law Clinic include:

  1. Represented the step-grandmother of a four-year-old boy whose biological mother voluntarily gave him to the step-grandmother when he was an infant. Unfortunately, the biological mother had serious mental health issues and was often homeless and the biological father had never been involved in his son’s life. The student attorney drafted a Complaint for Adoption and arranged for service of the Complaint on the biological mother who indicated that she intended to contest the adoption. We prepared the client to testify on the need to terminate parental rights and why adoption was in the child’s best interests. In the end, the biological mother did not appear in Court to contest the adoption. The judge asked the step-grandmother why she wanted to adopt the child and our client talked about the fact that she had no other children and wanted to do everything for this boy whom she had raised almost from birth. By the end of the hearing, when the adoption was finalized, everyone in the courtroom was crying, including the judge.

  2. Advocated for a woman with mental and physical disabilities, who had been strangled by her husband in front of their one-year old son. After a contested trial at which the student presented the client’s testimony as well as documentary evidence, the court entered a Final Restraining Order, sole custody to the client, supervised visitation, and child support. The defendant attempted to retaliate against the client by filing a false criminal complaint and false charges of abuse with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP). Clinic students aided in the dismissal of the criminal charges and the closing of the DCPP case through informal advocacy.

  3. Successfully obtained the return of a nine-year-old girl to her mother in Colombia after she had been wrongfully detained by her father in the U.S. for over nine months. The mother had raised the child for the first eight years of her life after the father left for the United States shortly after the child’s birth. Then one December, the father requested that his daughter visit him in the United States for a couple of weeks during the holiday school break. Towards what was planned to be the end of their daughter’s visit, the father told the mother that he would not return the child to Colombia as they had agreed, but instead wanted keep the child permanently in the United States. Horrified, the mother quickly sought legal representation and the Center for Social Justice accepted her case. The mother’s student attorney filed a compelling Complaint, Order to Show Cause, and supporting Legal Brief pursuant to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction as well as applicable federal and New Jersey state law. The judge was so appalled by the situation that he heard oral argument by the student attorney and father’s counsel on the day the complaint was filed and ordered immediate removal of the child from the father’s home under police escort to avoid any attempt by the father to abscond with her. Shortly thereafter, the child was reunited with her mother.

  4. Advocated on behalf of a Spanish-speaking immigrant, Renita (name changed to preserve confidentiality), in a divorce action against her husband who had repeatedly committed acts of domestic and sexual violence against her throughout their marriage. Renita had obtained a final restraining order against her husband with the assistance of another local non-profit agency but that organization was unable to help her with a divorce. The Family Law Clinic was able to obtain a Final Judgment of Divorce on Renita’s behalf with all of the relief she sought from the Court including sole legal and physical custody of her four children (ages 5-13) with her preferred visitation schedule. The Court also granted all of Renita’s requests with respect to child support, alimony and equitable distribution of marital assets and debts.

  5. Assisted a young woman (who was a minor) in a contested domestic violence hearing against a former boyfriend who had stalked and harassed her repeatedly through text and voicemail messages. The student attorney presented testimony of the client and the client’s mother and submitted numerous documents into evidence, including summaries and recordings of the threatening messages. The Court entered a Final Restraining Order, thus allowing the client to return home to finish her high school education without fear that the defendant would be waiting just outside her home or classroom.

The Seminar

The classroom component will include lectures and simulations reviewing the substantive law in the relevant practice areas, practice and procedure, and advanced trial advocacy skills.

Note: you will be required to attend class, office hours and court hearings during the day. If your employment situation is not flexible in this regard this may not be an appropriate clinical placement.