Assisting Individuals with Family Law Cases in Trial Court
Students are certified to practice under the supervision of Professor Jill Engle, under the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Student Practice Rules. Their casework before the Centre County Court of Common Pleas has included:
- Interviewing clients and developing case theories and strategies;
- Assisting clients who seek Protection From Abuse orders in domestic abuse cases;
- Helping clients draft and file divorce petitions;
- Negotiating property settlement terms for divorces;
- Advocating for parents and spouses at child and spousal support conferences and hearings;
- Counseling clients about Centre County's group custody conference days and custody mediations;
- Advising prospective adoptive grandparents and stepparents.
Public Policy Projects
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 2013
In 2013, the clinic is detailing Congress’ changes to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The project will result in a comprehensive document that explains each change, line by line, that the 2013 VAWA results in--from the 2005 VAWA as well as its earlier versions beginning in 1994. This document is not only describing the amendments, but is analyzing each one for impacts including funding shifts and policy developments such as more inclusive language for violence arising from same-sex relationships.
Freedom From Domestic Violence is a Fundamental Human Right
In 2013-14, Family Law Clinic students are approaching local and state officials in Pennsylvania to declare freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right. The project involves outreach to leaders in elected office about the prevalence and complexity of domestic violence in Pennsylvania's towns and cities. Students are engaging in extensive legal research about the issue as it affects Pennsylvanians, but also the landmark 2011 decision from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding the deaths of Jessica (Gonzales) Lenahan's three young daughters. The case examined the United State's Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, and urged governmental and advocacy groups in the United States to protect victims of domestic violence. Clinic students are gaining unparalleled experience drafting model resolution language, as well as an extensive position paper describing the relevant legal authority.
Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness
In March 2013, the Clinic was hired by the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness to create a new and standardized training program on child custody law. The Clinic created a guide to help military families nationwide. The training programs are part of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program for military service members and their families.
Planned for 2014
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 20th Anniversary
Penn State Law joins all Pennsylvania law schools and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence in celebrating 20 years of dedication to domestic violence protection: the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Enacted in 1994, the VAWA was landmark federal legislation that appropriated funds so states could address domestic violence in communities with shelters, counseling, social services and police response. The Pennsylvania law schools will host a series of symposia and students writing competitions. The Journal of Law and International Affairs is co-sponsoring this project at Penn State Law, and a special event co-hosted by the Journal, the Family Law Clinic and the Center for Immigrants Rights is planned for October 2014. Family Law Clinic students will have opportunities to help plan the event and research the relevant legal issues.