Family Law Advocacy Clinic

Professor Paula Kaldis
Phone: 978.681.0800 X117

Class Syllabus

The purpose of this course is twofold:

  1. To give the upper-level student a working knowledge of practice and procedure in diverse areas of family law in Massachusetts;
  2. To develop awareness and competence in public service areas of family law practice in the local community, specifically in domestic violence protection/prevention, divorce and child welfare.


A student will earn three (3) credits for participation in this course. A student may earn another (3) credits if he or she participates in the clinic component of the class.

To do so, a student must commit to one (1) full workday in the field placement along with class time on Monday evenings, more fully described below. Some limitations to enrollment in the clinic may apply, so clearance with Professor Kaldis is required for application to the clinic component. Three (3) hours weekly class time will serve as training sessions complementing clinical field placements.

Classes will cover the filing, preparation and presentation of applications, pleadings, motions, memoranda and other supporting documents in actions concerning domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and divorce. There will be mock hearings, client interviews and drafting assignments. Readings will focus on statutes and case law relating to practice in these areas in Massachusetts. There will be some discussion of the law in other states, as well.

There will also be assigned readings on interdisciplinary fields such as ethics and the role of counsel for children, family dynamics, and developmental psychology. Classes will also address resources for families and victims in the area of domestic violence, child welfare and social services. Guest speakers may be invited to class to impart a unique and inside perspective on course topics. Professional conduct before the court, with clients and with other attorneys will be an ongoing consideration at every level of instruction.

For students choosing to participate in the clinic portion of the course, field placements will be assigned with the aim of exposing them to a broad array of situations that comprise the family law area of practice in Massachusetts. Students who cannot commit to a clinical placement may be offered the opportunity to work at the Probate & Family Court in the Lawyer for the Day program under an instructor’s supervision at some point during the term. At least half of the semester’s class time will be devoted to public service areas of family law, including the delivery of legal services to the indigent in the areas of abuse prevention and state intervention in custody cases.

Students are expected to come to class prepared with each week’s assignment and they should be prepared to use all of the resources in the library to do so, including Westlaw and other on-line resources, as if they were in actual private practice. For this reason, no particular casebook is used. The students will find it helpful, however, to have a copy of the Massachusetts Rules of Court.

Students are required to have completed courses in Civil Procedure and Evidence. Completion of Family and/or Juvenile Law is recommended but not required. For students participating in the clinical component of this course, they are expected to have maintained a cumulative grade point average of not less than 2.0, without having been on academic probation within the last year.

Grades will be based upon performance on a final project given during the last day of class. Grades for the clinic component of the class will be pass or fail, based upon the input received from field supervisors.

The final for this course will be given during the last class, a three-hour session. Students will be given a fact pattern involving a hypothetical client, probably a parent, whose problems begin with domestic violence and end (or continue) in DSS involvement and divorce. Students will be asked to compile a case file containing the attorney notes and documents necessary for effective representation of the client. This file will be graded with respect to how well the student analyzes that which is required of him/her as counsel, and how well the student drafts required documents. The instructors utilize the grading curve.

Attendance and participation in class and in the field is mandatory. Failing to participate and attend class will negatively impact group interaction in mock hearings and assignments and will adversely affect the quality of our training sessions. Students with more than three un-excused absences will receive a reduction in the final course grade by one-third of a point, for example from a C+ to a C. “No shows” in the field may be grounds for a failing grade in the course.

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