Above anything, we value our freedom and our families. But people who are incarcerated face great barriers to establishing or maintaining relationships with loved ones, especially their children. Students in the Family Law Project (FLP) work with incarcerated persons to establish and maintain their family relationships and to assist them with problems arising from the intersection of incarceration and family law. That work can have a life-changing impact on the clients’ current and future well-being, as well as on that of their children.
Under the supervision of an experienced clinical professor and family law practitioner, students represent both male and female inmates in various stages of litigation in a wide variety of family law matters including divorce, paternity, guardianship, child support, legal custody, and physical placement (visitation).
FLP students are responsible for every aspect of their clients’ cases. They strategize with their supervising attorney to determine the best course of action for every client; meet with their clients at prisons around the State; interview witnesses; investigate the facts of the case; draft and file court pleadings; negotiate settlement agreements; write trial (and sometimes appellate) briefs; advocate for their clients’ interests with guardians ad litem and opposing counsel; and, prepare for and conduct hearings before court commissioner and circuit court judges.
In addition to individual representation, the FLP acts as a resource for caregivers of children with an incarcerated parent, consults with other attorneys, makes presentations to court officials and community agencies, and provides forms, information and educational materials to self-represented inmates.
Students work full time during the 12-week summer session, receiving 7 credits for part of their work, and a stipend for the other part of their work (approximately $2,500 plus tuition remission for the summer credits). The students' summer clinical experience will include a weekly classroom component related to the theory, practice and procedure of family law.
Students in FLP are expected to commit to continuing with the project during the fall and spring following the summer experience. Due to the length, complexity, and often-changing facts involved in family law cases, a one-year commitment is necessary to achieve the full educational value of the project.
During the fall semester, students will enroll for 4-5 credits of LAIP to continue to work on their FLP cases. The fall commitment will include a weekly small group meeting. During the spring semester, students will enroll for 3-4 credits of LAIP to continue working on their cases. Due to the Supreme Court’s student practice requirements, it is typically during the spring semester that students are able to actually appear in court and conduct hearings on behalf of their clients.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Clinical Assistant Professor Leslie Shear, at firstname.lastname@example.org.