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Family lawyers handle divorce, represent children in custody matters, and can specialize in family affairs for nontraditional families, in adoption or reproductive law, or in paternity and child support issues. They may be involved in debates on same-sex marriage and the definition of a family. Some family lawyers engage in litigation but many do not.

Family Law Resources

Family Law Faculty

Family Law Path View

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  • Core Course

    Family Law

    3 Credit (Elective)

    Surveys many legal problems of the family. Students taking this course will learn about the effect of the constitution on reproductive activity and family formation and structure. They also will learn about procedures for family dissolution, custody, and support, regardless of whether there has been a marriage or not. In addition, students will learn about the various ways in which members of families can use contracts to create their own relations and the settings in which the state does not permit self-determination. Finally, the course explores the lawyer's role in family counseling and litigation. One or more written exercises are sometimes required during the course, in addition to a final examination.

  • Recommended Course

    Personal Income Tax

    3 Credit (Elective)

    This course covers the Internal Revenue Code provisions applicable to the tax treatment of individual taxpayers. Students also will study tax policy, case law, and the tax doctrines and principles applicable to the determination of an individual's taxable income. This course provides the basic structure for understanding and interpreting the Internal Revenue Code, and serves as a foundation for upper-level tax and business-related law school courses.

    Areas of coverage includes: gross income; the tax consequences of property transactions; property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance; scholarships, prizes, and awards; life insurance and annuities; discharge of indebtedness; personal injury damages; fringe benefits; divorce; and deductions related to a trade or business or profit-seeking activity.

    When offered as a distance-learning course, there will be required weekly readings from the casebook and online statutory and regulatory sources, regular mini-lectures on prerecorded video accompanied by PowerPoint slides, discussion forums to which students must make posts each week, and weekly quizzes. All course material other than the casebook will be accessible by any computing device through an Internet connection. While most of the course will be asynchronous, opportunities will be presented for synchronous digital chat. In addition to posing questions and providing guidance on the discussion boards and through the video lectures, the professor will be available throughout the course by e-mail, conference call, or live chat. Grading will be based on participation in the forums (including a qualitative component), performance on quizzes, and a final "open-book" examination.

  • Recommended Course

    Divorce Practice

    2 Credit (Professional Skills)

    This course is designed to prepare students for handling divorce cases through the trial phase. This course presumes prior knowledge of the substantive law areas covered during the first two years of law school, especially family law. The course itself concentrates on divorce and the development of skills in trial advocacy as applied to the field of family law. Problems faced by students acting as counsel include client interviews, investigation, discovery, pleadings and amended pleadings, motions, opening and closing statements, examination of witnesses, offers of opinion, evidence, offers of exhibits into evidence, objections, the impeachment of witnesses, and preserving rights on appeal. Simulation exercises are critiqued by the instructors and class. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Recommended Course

    Family Law Clinic

    2/3 Credit (Clinic)

    Students in this clinical component spend 10 (2-credit) or 15 (3-credit) hours a week in settings that expose them to the practice of family law. Most placements will be in settings such as legal services offices, including New England Law's in-house clinic, in which students will handle family law cases pursuant to SJC Rule 3:03, the student practice rule. Since most legal services offices take family law cases primarily where there are issues of domestic violence, the family law placements typically will expose students to issues covered in the Domestic Violence and Family Law courses. Settings beyond legal services offices will be appropriate placements as well, as long as the substantive work in the field will expose students to issues covered in the courses recognized as the corequisites/prerequisites. Students will submit weekly journals, describing and reflecting on their experiences in the field, and will meet in a series of seminars with the course instructor and/or the Clinical Director to explore the relationship between the principles covered in the substantive class and the students' fieldwork. Prerequisite/corequisites include Domestic Violence and Family Law. This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Recommended Course

    Lawyering Process

    6, 4, or 3 Credit (Clinic)

    This one-semester course serves as an introduction to civil litigation. Students attend a 2-hour weekly class and 16 hours per week (8 hours or 5 hours, respectively, for the 4- and 3-credit version open to part-time students only), working on civil cases through the Clinical Law Office or other legal services offices, such as Greater-Boston Legal Services. Students represent clients under Rule 3:03 of the Supreme Judicial Court, the student practice rule, and assume responsibility for all phases of each case they handle. Students meets on a weekly basis with their assigned supervisor to discuss progress and strategy on the student's cases, and are responsible for handling cases until the end of the examination period. The major objective of the course is to develop a conceptual framework within which students can understand and evaluate their own experience in practice, both during the course and in future practice. The skills studied include client interviewing, case planning, investigation/discovery, client counseling, negotiation, argument, and the presentation of evidence. In addition to providing the opportunity to develop skills, the course examines institutional and ethical problems that arise in the student's practice. Written work includes short papers and an examination. Prerequisites/corequisites include Evidence or Trial Practice. This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Recommended Course

    Public Interest Law Seminar / Clinic

    3, 4, or 5 Credit (Clinic)

    Other Stage Two Options:

    Family Law Clinic OR Lawyering Process

    This one-semester package includes both a clinical course and seminar. Students will spend 5 (1-credit), 10 (2-credit), or 15 (3-credit) hours per week in their fieldwork, depending on the number of credits for the clinical component portion. In addition, all students will attend a weekly, 2-hour seminar (2 credits). The total package will therefore be offered for 3, 4, or 5 credits, with the 3-credit package offered only to Evening and Special Part-Time Program students. For the clinical component, the core placements will include the New England Law Clinical Law Office and off-site placements, such as Greater-Boston Legal Services, where students will handle civil cases. Students will be practicing under Rule 3:03 of the Supreme Judicial Court, typically representing indigent clients. An explicit goal of this course is to provide our students with direct experience providing "legal services for the benefit of persons of limited means." See MASS. R PROF. CONDUCT R. 6.1. Placements in governmental agencies will not be the focus of this clinic, since the placements in other clinical courses are so heavily weighted toward the government sector (e.g. Government Lawyer, Tax Clinic, Administrative Law Clinic, Criminal Procedure II Clinic, Federal Courts Clinic). The seminar portion of the course will focus on public interest law and the public interest lawyer. Classes, or units of classes, will include issues such as: introduction to substantive areas of public interest law (e.g., family law, housing law, government benefits); ethics (e.g. issues affecting public interest lawyers, regulation of the profession and delivery of legal services); clients (unmet legal needs, and issues of poverty, race and gender); the courts (dispensing justice to persons of limited means); and legal education (the role of law schools in preparing lawyers for the practice). Issues from the students' fieldwork will be incorporated into the classes, to strengthen the connections between classroom and fieldwork, as well as theory and practice.

    Prerequisites/Corequisites: Evidence or Trial Practice.

    This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Other Course

    Administrative Law

    3 Credit (Elective)

    This course is designed for students interested in regulatory law and those who seek additional coverage of pertinent constitutional law topics. Coverage includes the sources and nature of agency authority, agency rule making and adjudication, and judicial review of agency action. Constitutional issues addressed include the interplay of power among the three federal branches, procedural due process, and justiciability issues such as standing, ripeness, and mootness. Special emphasis is placed on the federal Administrative Procedure Act; state analogs may be studied as well. Attention also may be given to the internal functioning of typical administrative bodies and to the relationship between regulators and the regulated community.

  • Other Course

    Mediation

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Students are introduced to the principles of conflict resolution through the mediation process and through evolving mediation hybrids, including learning about the legal, ethical, sociological, and procedural aspects of mediation through a series of simulated exercises. Students participate directly in simulations drawn from many areas involving conflict, such as family law, trusts and estates, land use and real estate, business, sports law, construction, entertainment, and employment. During the second half of the course, the focus is on the role of lawyers in the mediation process and the skills needed to be an effective and appropriate advocate in resolving disputes for clients. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Other Course

    Negotiation

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Explores the theory and the art of resolving conflict through negotiation. Various styles are presented for comparison and analysis. Students are urged to evaluate their own intuitive style and to experience others. Practical experience is achieved through one-on-one and group negotiations exercises. The theory of conflict, strategic choice, ethical issues, and the negotiator's dilemma are presented in a variety of substantive contexts. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

  • Other Course

    Wills, Estates, and Trusts I

    3 Credit (Elective)

    This course is designed to give the student a grounding in the general law relating to donative transfers of property interests taking place at death. It covers intestate succession, wills laws, nonprobate transfers, and some trust laws. It is not jurisdiction-specific; instead, it focuses on majority and minority rules and trends in the law. Jurisdictional comparisons often will be made.

    When offered as a distance learning course, there will be required weekly readings from the casebook, regular mini-lectures on prerecorded video accompanied by PowerPoint slides, discussion forums to which students must make posts each week, and weekly assessments, including quizzes. All course material other than the casebook will be accessible by any computing device through an Internet connection. While most of the course will be asynchronous, opportunities will be presented for synchronous digital chat. In addition to posing questions and providing guidance on the discussion boards and through the video lectures, the professor will be available throughout the course by e-mail, telephone, in-person at New England Law Boston, and/or via Skype. Grading will be based on participation in the forums (including a qualitative component), performance on quizzes, and a final "open-book" examination.

  • Recommended Course

    Children and the Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    The theme of this seminar is the manner in which tensions related to the division of power and control play out between children and parents, children and the state, and parents and the state in a wide variety of contexts. Topics include, but are not limited to, the right of parents to make medical, educational, and other decisions about their children without state intervention; First Amendment rights of children; rights of young children in school; children's economic relationship within the family; child abuse and neglect; child custody; corporal punishment; and the nature and scope of constitutional rights and privileges in delinquency proceedings.

  • Recommended Course

    Domestic Violence

    2 Credit (Elective)

    The course addresses partner-violence issues in the legal system, including the consequences for children, focusing, initially, on those issues relating to civil orders of protection; prosecution and defense of criminal charges; and divorce, custody, and child support, along with the role of the Department of Children and Families. In the final third of the course, students choose other legal issues in partner-violence cases to present to the class. Presentations in earlier years have included such topics as immigration, cyberstalking, religious law, housing, and evidence issues that are significant in partner-violence cases. Students will be encouraged to consider how issues of race, class, ethnicity, and gender affect the analyses.

  • Recommended Course

    Law and the Elderly

    2 or 3 Credit (Elective)

    This class presents a broad overview of the legal and policy questions relating to aging individuals and an older society. As our elderly population continues to grow faster than the population as a whole, the legal profession must be prepared to address the wide range of legal issues that particularly affect the elderly. Topics that are explored include how the elderly live when they retire and their income drops, health-care options and access to care, housing alternatives when a person ages and becomes frail, and long-term care policies. Students also study health-care decision making, planning for incapacity, legal considerations when individuals can no longer make decisions for themselves, and elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. This course involves frequent use of simulations, and problem-solving extrapolated from actual situations encountered by elderly clients. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

  • Other Course

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    2 Credit (Professional Skills)

    This course focuses on alternative methods of dispute resolution, including negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. In-class simulations of fact patterns are used as a means of illustrating certain resolution methods. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Other Course

    Education and the Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Concentrating on public education, this course examines the increasing number of federal and state laws and regulations and court decisions that influence or control schools. Special attention is given to current issues, for example, students' freedom of speech and press, school prayer, school integration, discipline, school funding, bilingual education, special education, and the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process, as they affect students and faculty. Utilizing a problem-based approach, the respective rights and responsibilities of the various constituencies in an educational setting are examined.

  • Other Course

    Immigration Law

    3 Credit (Elective)

    The objective of the course is to provide the student with a general knowledge of immigration laws and procedures in the United States. Focus is on the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the specific procedures established for the processing of affirmative applications for status, as well as defending against removal. The course covers the constitutional authority of the federal government to legislate and regulate immigration, nonimmigrant and immigrant visas (including family and employment based), grounds of inadmissibility and deportability, and defenses against removal. It also touches on asylum law and issues impacting those present without documentation. The course is practice oriented, with theory grounding and contextualizing aspects of the course, as relevant.

  • Other Course

    Juvenile Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Explores the primary methods by which the state defines and controls juvenile delinquency in our society. Through the study of case law, students are exposed to the history and philosophy of the juvenile justice system and to the concept of juvenile delinquency. In particular, focus is given to the unique juvenile court, its roles as a legal system and as a social welfare system, and a comparative analysis of juvenile law and process. Also explored are dependency, neglect, and diversion programs.