Divorce proceedings make up a large proportion of the cases that come before courts, and mediation can provide a more rational option for making decisions about children and property than might be achieved through aggressive attorney negotiation. The Divorce Mediation Clinic was established when the Office of Court Administration asked the law school for assistance in expanding its alternative dispute resolution programs.
Groups of students take on four to five mediations during the one-semester clinic, under the supervision of Professor Robert Collins, a divorce mediator with nearly 30 years of experience. Clients, referred to the clinic because they cannot afford a lawyer, provide students with the opportunity to grapple with a wide range of issues, including children’s expenses, division of assets and liabilities, child support, taxes, and how and when to file for divorce. Students help devise solutions and draft separation and divorce agreements. As a result, divorces are processed in several weeks rather than months or years.
In class, students analyze cases and discuss potential approaches. They study legislation related to spousal support, how children can be brought into the mediation process, and domestic violence. They hone skills that are transferable to any kind of legal setting.