Northwest Justice Project - Family Law Department
I’m interning with the Family Law department at Northwest Justice Project. My work is focused on domestic violence issues, spousal maintenance, and child visitation. My first motion hearing went great, and I was able to get our client temporary maintenance to support her and her daughter pending her dissolution. I’m currently representing a client in a protection order case with a serious history of domestic violence. I’m working hard to get the client and the children involved the needed protection. The family law department at NJP is dedicated to confronting domestic violence issues and income power disparities to achieve a just result.
July 1, 2012
This past week has been hectic but exciting! I have been in and out of court working on two cases, making big progress on one by getting temporary spousal maintenance for our client. The facts of our case were less common - the marriage was very short-term but there was a significant need for maintenance. We were pleased with the judge’s ruling and now our client will be able to move into a safer apartment with her young daughter. Next week I'm going to be taking the testimony of an expert witness and the wife in a dissolution trial. Divorce cases less often make it to the trial stage - this will be my first time involved in a trial and I’m looking forward to it.
Since summer started I quickly learned the family law department at NJP is extremely dedicated to their clients and to providing a great experience for interns. I've been able to take on a number of projects with a number of different attorneys. This has been helpful to gain perspective on different work styles and develop my own style.
One of the things I've enjoyed is working with interpreters. I've become interested in learning how culture impacts communication and how to effectively work with clients with different backgrounds. In cases of domestic violence, some survivors are much more reluctant to share their story. Also, some survivors don’t recognize certain behaviors as violence or methods of control. We often have to take a holistic approach to cases with domestic violence, by working with community advocates to ensure a safety plan is in place for our clients once they file for dissolution. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer brings!
July 23, 2012
I feel lucky to have gained so much experience at Northwest Justice Project. Two weeks ago I took part in a dissolution trial. On the second day of trial I took the expert witness and client testimony, which lasted about three hours. It’s amazing how quickly time flies when you’re in court. The outcome was great for our client. It’s exciting to know she officially closed a chapter of her life and can now put all of her energy into her future – for now, finding a new job and raising her daughters.
Most recently, I had a return hearing on a Protection Order case with contested visitation issues. This hearing was frustrating! Opposing counsel requested a continuance based on the possibility of implicating his client’s 5th amendment rights. His client has a criminal charge from a domestic violence incident included in our client’s Petition. I opposed the continuance, mainly on the basis that the parties’ history involved a 14 year-long history of abuse and excluding the incident, there was enough evidence to make a finding of domestic violence. Also, protection order cases apply a preponderance of the evidence standard, which means a finding of culpability in the civil case doesn’t implicate guilt in the criminal case. Nevertheless, the commissioner granted a continuance. What was so frustrating is that because we were unable to address domestic violence, the factual record fell short to appropriately decide the father’s visitation with the children. The return hearing is set for September, and I hope to come back on board for this case.
My summer at Northwest Justice Project will soon be coming to a close. I know I’ll miss the experiences here, but I will be able to take so much with me.