Professor: Jessica Miles
Offered: Fall and spring semesters.
The Family Law Clinic provides free legal services to individuals needing representation in a wide variety of family law matters. The caseload may include both contested and uncontested divorces; establishment, modification and enforcement of child and spousal support; custody and visitation cases; international child abduction cases; adoptions; and litigation on behalf of victims of domestic violence. Students may also serve as court-appointed law guardians for children in termination of parental rights cases and custody and visitation cases.
The work includes interviewing, investigation, legal research, motion practice, discovery, negotiation, preparation of lay and expert witnesses, contested and uncontested trials and hearings, oral argument of motions, and the preparation of trial and appellate briefs. Students work under the supervision of the clinical professors, 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 trial, and appeal where warranted. Students will interview and counsel clients, work with interpreters, interview witnesses, conduct factual investigations, engage in legal research and analysis, draft moving papers and legal documents, argue motions, conduct negotiations, prepare clients and witnesses for trial, and conduct trials. Students may conduct and defend depositions and participate in the appeal of cases.
Students are required to spend a minimum of fifteen hours per week in practice during the spring and fall semesters, and at least thirty hours per week during the summer.
Recent cases handled by students include:
The clinic represented 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 clinic filed for divorce on behalf of this client. Meanwhile, the defendant attempted to retaliate against the client by filing a false criminal complaint and false charges of abuse with the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Clinic students aided in the dismissal of the criminal charges and the closing of the DYFS case through informal advocacy.
The clinic represented a woman from Jamaica in non-dissolution and divorce proceedings against her husband, who was employed by the United Nations. Following many years of abuse, the husband had canceled the client’s visa and obtained a divorce in Jamaica in an attempt to avoid his legal obligations. Following a successful pre-trial motion that was prepared and argued by the student, the husband agreed to pay limited duration alimony, child support and one half of his retirement benefits. In addition, he agreed to indemnify the client for debts related to various properties that he had acquired during the marriage. Following the divorce, another student negotiated a settlement whereby the client was able to relocate with the children to Georgia, where she had better housing and employment opportunities. Throughout the case, clinic students worked with the client’s immigration attorney, and ultimately the client was granted permanent residency by the US government.
The clinic represented a woman from Nigeria who suffered for many years at the hands of her husband and obtained a restraining order after he had beat her unconscious. First the clinic successfully appealed a denial of her motion to modify a support order in a non-dissolution case. Then the clinic filed divorce on the client’s behalf, and the husband responded by claiming that the parties’ marriage ceremony in Nigeria was not valid. Following protracted discovery and pre-trial proceedings, the student negotiated a settlement where the husband recognized the marriage and the client received a lump sum for alimony and equitable distribution, as well as child support for her four daughters. In addition, supervised visitation was ordered due to the history of violence and lack of contact with the children.
The clinic obtained a favorable decision on behalf of a client in a matter involving the innocent taxpayer provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Previously a student represented the client in a divorce action in which the client maintained custody of her young son, visitation was suspended, and prior support and restraining orders were continued by the Court. After the divorce, the IRS attempted to collect back taxes from our client based on unreported income from her former husband during the years they filed jointly. The student filed a Petition for Innocent Spouse Relief with the IRS for two different years. We provided evidence showing that both before and after her divorce, she was continually harassed by her former husband, forcing her to move back and forth between a battered women’s shelter and various apartments while caring for her young son. The IRS granted relief for both years, and the client is now pursuing a college education in order to return to the workforce.
The clinic 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 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 classroom component will include lectures and simulations reviewing the substantive law in the relevant practice areas, basic practice and procedure, evidentiary issues, and advanced trial advocacy skills.
CRITERIA FOR ADMISSION
Students who have completed or are taking Family Law: Marriage and Divorce will be given preference.
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, e.g., if you are an evening student, this may well not be an appropriate clinical placement.