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Family Violence Litigation Clinic

Our Story, Our Service

The Family Violence Litigation Clinic (FVLC) provides comprehensive, client-focused civil legal services to adults and children who have suffered violence at the hands of intimate partners or family members.

In addition to representing these clients in court, the FVLC helps survivors with associated challenges such as finding employment and securing child care.

The FVLC represents children in Albany County who are living in circumstances where there is domestic violence. Children have no power to reduce the control that batterers have in their lives. Through age-appropriate communication, counseling, and advocacy with the goal of preventing future cycles of family violence, clinic staff, and students help children’s voices to be heard and addressed by family court judges in proceedings involving family offenses, custody, and parenting time.

The FVLC also works collaboratively with Unity House Law Project, to provide civil legal assistance to adult survivors of family violence in often-complicated matters in Rensselaer County Family and Supreme Courts.

In addition to the immediate impact of the services the FVLC provides, the community gains the benefit of the education those experiences provide for our students. These students go on to serve our communities as skilled and culturally competent professionals who are well-versed in child and family law, family court proceedings involving domestic violence, and the dynamics of intimate partner abuse.

What We Do

Under direct faculty supervision, students in the FVLC interview and counsel clients, conduct fact investigation and discovery, draft pleadings, correspondence, motions, stipulations, and orders, perform legal research and analysis, work with translators, advocate for clients in court, and negotiate cases with opposing counsel as well as the attorney for the children involved. Students also have had opportunities to write or argue an appellate case, conduct full evidentiary trials, participate in administrative hearings, and engage in community outreach.

 

 

Background

Family violence, which encompasses domestic violence and other types of intimate partner violence, is any form of abuse, mistreatment, or neglect that a child or adult experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. Family violence affects one in four women and one in ten men in this United States.

And although Americans of all backgrounds experience family violence, it disproportionately affects communities of color and other historically marginalized groups. The available data is alarming, and the fact that family violence is widely underreported makes it even more so.

Albany Law School has long been at the forefront of educating law students about domestic violence. 

In 1986, Albany Law School Professor Katheryn D. Katz, a Professor of Family Law, became the first in the nation to teach a Domestic Violence seminar class. In 1993, the Department of Education provided funding to Albany Law School to start a clinical program, focusing on the plight of incarcerated battered women as well as the needs of domestic violence victims seeking relief in family court.

More than 25 years later, this work is still an integral part of The Justice Center at Albany Law School.

 

Impact of COVID-19

The effects of the lockdowns and economic impacts of COVID-19 on family violence will take time to fully assess, but there is no doubt among advocates that they have been severe.

Many service providers anticipated a surge in demand as stay-at-home orders were enacted in early 2020, but instead experienced a severe decrease in calls, a sign that victims were struggling to safely reach out. COVID-19 increased unemployment, financial dependence, stress, and time at home while removing the safe havens and natural reporting avenues of schools, health providers, shelters, and the courts.

As we reckon with these impacts, the services provided by the Family Violence Litigation Clinic are more essential than ever.

Program Highlights

  • Taught students who represented survivors of intimate partner violence in family offense, custody, parenting time, child support, matrimonial, administrative, and appellate work.
  • Provided legal education to community members on custody and visitation matters
  • Collaborated with the Capital District Women’s Bar Association’s Legal Project on CLE regarding Immigration Issues in Family Court
  • Presented CLE to the Office of the NYS Attorney General on Domestic Violence and Custody Issues in Family Court