Students in the Family Law Clinic typically spend their days counseling clients, preparing filings, and making court appearances. Third-year students Alison Glunt, Teleicia Rose, and Bart Wischnowski and clinic fellow Erin Bloxham did those things but also worked on a project designed to help military families.
“We were hired by the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness to create a new and standardized training program on child custody law. We developed a PowerPoint presentation with an accompanying Facilitator’s Guide that will be available to help military families nationwide,” said Jill Engle, director of the Family Law Clinic. Anna Strawn, a senior law student in the Community Law Clinic under the supervision of Megan Reismeyer, developed a separate training program on guardianship of children for the Clearinghouse as well.
The training programs are part of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) for military service members and their families. The Defense Department describes YRRP as promoting the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families, and communities by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle.
Glunt, who hopes to pursue a career as a litigator, liked the project because it offered the students a different perspective. “The clinical experience was focused on serving individuals and individual families. This project allowed us to help a large group of people across the country,” she said.
Rose, who is returning to Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia to practice family law when she graduates, said that the work each student accomplished on the project reflected the family law experience of that student. The topics covered include domestic violence, parents moving across state lines, child support, divorce, and grandparent rights. Rose, whose father was a senior master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, was especially interested in the issues the team covered. “Because I have experienced deployment issues within my own family, keeping families together resonated with me,” she said.
One of the surprising aspects of the projects that the students said they confronted was their level of complexity. In addition to better understanding the topics they were required to cover from a general legal perspective, there were layers of military regulations that the students needed to understand and simplify.
“We couldn’t be happier with the result." said Heidi Watson, learning designer and faculty researcher at the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. "The commitment to this assignment and the quality of the training will impact thousands of military families. It will help them to be more resilient in the coming years. We are very fortunate to have such an amazing resource at Penn State, that helps us make a difference in the lives of so many.”
Wischnowski, who will practice family law at Frank, Gale, Bails, Murcko & Pocrass in Pittsburgh when he graduates, summed up the experience, “It is extremely rewarding to think that we helped lighten the heavy burden of people being deployed.”