Family Law Litigation
Lawyers representing clients in legal proceedings involving children, such as divorce, custody or child protection cases, face unique challenges. They must learn to interview and counsel clients in emotional distress. They must zealously advocate for their client's wishes while remaining sensitive to the needs of the child, whose best interests remain the court's paramount concern. This dynamic complicates strategic decisions that have to be made regarding the presentation of the case, including filing motions, calling and questioning witnesses, making objections, and negotiating with other parties. Additionally, they must learn to work with actors, foreign to other civil proceedings, such as the Friend of the Court, mediators, social workers, and guardians ad litem.
This course, which will be held in the Washtenaw County Courthouse, will familiarize students with essentials of advocacy in these unique cases. Focus will be given on building a case theory, developing skills such as interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating with opposing counsel and pro se litigants, working with third parties and experts, and drafting pre-trial motions and trial briefs. Additionally, students will work on applying traditional trial skills (opening statements, closing arguments, questioning witnesses) to children's law cases. Each week, students will practice these skills through simulations and will receive feedback from the professors. Students, in thinking about creative advocacy, will also reflect about and critique the legal standards applied in these cases. Throughout the course, the importance of professionalism and legal ethics will be emphasized. The course will culminate in a mock trial, which will be videotaped for the purposes of evaluation.
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