Family Law

Family law is a hot practice area because the modern variety of family relationships presents new and challenging questions for the law. The field offers sustained employment opportunities because people always need help with the family issues of daily life. Whether you work for a small firm, solo practice, legal aid organization, governmental agency or court, family law offers a variety of contexts for practice.  Family lawyers handle disputes about parental rights, child support, divorce, marriage recognition, grandparents’ rights, adoption, juvenile issues, and domestic violence.  They work as advocates, prosecutors, guardians ad litem, mediators, magistrates, and judges.

Distinguish yourself at Akron Law through our specialized training and experience opportunities. In addition to our many course offerings, externships give you practical training in domestic relations courts, juvenile courts, legal aid organizations, family and children services agencies, and the prosecutor’s child support enforcement agency. Akron Law’s longstanding affiliation with the local bar association offers an organized mentoring program and opportunity for students to network with practicing attorneys from their first year. Opportunities to work as upper-classmen with local practitioners and judges give you that apprenticeship experience to help you go from the classroom to the courtroom. In fact, as part of our new Domestic Relations Clinic, you can appear in Portage County court, argue at hearings, prepare legal briefs, and advise clients under the supervision and guidance of an experienced practitioner. 

Family law experts

Tracy Thomas, Seiberling Chair of Constitutional LawBio

Professor Thomas practiced family law at Neighborhood Legal Services in Washington, D.C. representing clients in divorce, domestic violence, and custody disputes.  Her research in the field ranges from work on the complexities of valuing employee stock options at divorce to understanding the legal history of the divorce laws. She has presented to judges on topics of custody jurisdiction, same-sex partnerships, and assisted reproduction.  Professor Thomas serves on community committees related to the practice of family law including the Family Law Interdisciplinary Council and a sub-group of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Carolyn Dessin, Aileen McMurray Trusler Professor of Law Bio

Professor Dessin is an expert in the area of elder law and financial abuse of the elderly.  She teaches courses on individual taxation, elder law, contracts, and wills. She has also taught a course on comparative family law in several study abroad programs.  Professor Dessin’s scholarship focuses on the special issues of elder care in the practice of domestic relations, including articles on guardianship and financial abuse.  She is a frequent speaker at continuing education programs for attorneys on topics of elder law.

K. William Bailey, Judge (Retired), Wayne County Court of Common Pleas, Probate & JuvenileBio

Judge Bailey served as judge for the Wayne County Common Pleas, Probate and Juvenile Divisions for 11 years. Prior to that, he was a referee and probation officer for the Juvenile Court.  Judge Bailey teaches the Juvenile Law course.  

Dana Cole, Associate Professor of Law Bio

Professor Cole teaches litigation courses at Akron Law including trial advocacy, evidence, and criminal law. Prior to entering academia, Professor Cole practiced domestic relations law in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches in several national trial advocacy programs including Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College in Wyoming and Harvard’s Winter Trial Advocacy Workshop.

Judge Judith Nicely (retired), Summit County Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division | Bio

Judge Nicely served as a Domestic Relations judge for 12 years, including as Chief Judge of the Court.  Recently, she has served as a visiting judge for domestic relations cases in other counties.  Prior to becoming a judge, she was in private practice for twelve years. Judge Nicely teaches the Family Law Practicum course, an experiential class teaching practice through simulations and visiting practitioners.

Timothy Thomas, Attorney at McClelland & Thomas | Bio

Adjunct Professor Thomas teaches the Domestic Relations Court Clinic. He brings his years of experience and skills as a counselor of law to supervising students in the DR Court Clinic. Students handle cases in the Portage County Domestic Relations Court under his direction.

Family law courses

Akron Law provides varied course work that explores all angles of family law practice, from the study of families to financial and property matters to the necessary litigation and negotiation skills.  Certificates available in litigation and divorce mediation help you distinguish your training even further, offering credentials of interest to both employers and clients. 

  • Family Law
  • Family Law Practicum
  • Domestic Relations Court Clinic
  • Juvenile Law
  • Elder Law
  • Externship
  • Divorce Mediation
  • Accounting for Lawyers
  • Special Education Law
  • Pretrial Advocacy
  • Trial Advocacy
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Bankruptcy
  • Law and Psychiatry
  • Valuation of the Firm
  • Conflicts of Law
  • Individual Taxation

Affiliated courses in other University departments:

  • Divorce Mediation Practicum
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Family Violence
  • Family Dynamics
  • Career Counseling
  • Systems Theory in Family Therapy
  • Family Crisis
  • Family and Divorce
  • Family in Life-Span Perspective