Family Law During COVID-19: Challenges, Adaptations, and Future Impacts

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 190 minutes
Recorded Date: April 08, 2021
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• Panel 1: Virtual Hearings, Family Court Proceedings, Adaptations, & the Future
        - Observing Online Courts: Lessons from the Pandemic
        - Our Virtual Reality: Constitutional Dimensions of Virtual Family Court
        - The Effects of COVID-19 on International Child Abduction Cases
        - Withstanding Disruptive Innovation: How Attorneys Will Adapt and Survive
           Impending Challenges from Automation and Nontraditional Legal Services Providers
• Panel 2: Addressing System Gaps: Representing Clients and Accessing Services
        - Outline
        - COVID-19 and Families with Special Needs
        - Family Law in the Time of COVID-19: Selected Cases

Runtime: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Recorded: April 8, 2021


Panel 1: This panel will consider the impact of court closures and the use of virtual court proceedings in the context of family law, for both domestic and international cases. Panelists will discuss legal and practical challenges presented by virtual proceedings in the family law context, and consider the extent to which virtual proceedings may be incorporated into future practice.

Panel 2: Addressing System Gaps: Representing Clients and Accessing Services. This panel will consider how COVID-19 has impacted systems for providing interventions, supports, or oversight in the area of family law, as well as some best practices for client representation and advocacy. Specific areas for discussion include child welfare, individuals with special needs, surrogacy, and domestic violence.

This program was recorded on April 8th, 2021.

Provided By

American Bar Association


Jamie Bormann

Deputy Director
Crisis Line & Safe House for Central Georgia

Jamie Bormann is the Deputy Director for Crisis Line & Safe House of Central Georgia in Macon, Georgia. During her 15 years with Crisis Line & Safe House, Jamie has worked in a variety of roles, including working with children at the shelter, with adults whose victimization led to DFCS involvement, and with victims navigating the Criminal Justice System.

Jamie has facilitated trainings to various audiences, including DFCS, law enforcement, advocates, prosecutors, and faith leaders, and is a current Board Member for the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the past Chair of the Central Georgia Council on Family Violence.

Jamie received her MS in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati.

Sarah White, Esq.

Senior Attorney & Director, Clayton Family Advocacy Office
Atlanta Legal Aid Society

Sarah White is Senior Attorney and Director of the Clayton Family Advocacy Office, a project of Atlanta Legal Aid Society through which she provides free legal services to residents of Fulton and Clayton County, Georgia. Her legal practice primarily consists of representing survivors of domestic violence in family law matters including divorce, custody, and protective order proceedings. Since COVID-19 closed local courthouses, Sarah has overseen direct remote services to hundreds of survivors of family violence and stalking who seek civil protective orders in Clayton County. She was a 2017-2019 Fellow of the ABA Section of Family Law and is Co-Chair of the Section’s Domestic Violence Committee.

Sarah received her JD from the University of Georgia School of Law.

Prof. Seema Mohapatra

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Seema Mohapatra is an expert in the areas of health care law, public health law, bioethics, torts and family law. Her research interests include the intersection of biosciences and the law, assisted reproduction and surrogacy, international family and health law, health care disparities in the United States, and informed consent. She has authored articles and book chapters on topics such as insurance coverage of infertility and assisted reproduction, genetics and health privacy, international surrogacy laws, and equity in health care coverage.

Professor Mohapatra regularly presents her research nationally and internationally at legal and medical conferences and symposia. She often speaks to the media about a wide variety of health law and bioethical topics, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Times of India and Huffington Post and on National Public Radio.

Prior to teaching, Mohapatra practiced health law in Chicago at Sidley & Austin and Foley & Lardner. She earned her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and has a master's degree in public health with a concentration in chronic disease epidemiology from Yale University. She earned a bachelor of arts in natural sciences, with a minor in women's studies, from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Margaret Price

Professor & Academic Program Director, Homeland Security & Emergency Management
National University

Dr. Margaret ‘Pegi’ Price is a Professor and Academic Program Director for the M.S. in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. She has held teaching and department head positions at several colleges and universities in the Midwest. She received a National Teacher of the Year award in 1992.

She earned her Juris Doctorate at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where she was a Senior Editor on the Law Review and inducted into Phi Delta Phi, the legal honors society. She earned the first perfect score in the history of the University of Florida in the Law Review annual writing competition. She completed her B.A. in History at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, where she received multiple academic honors.

Dr. Price practiced law for more than 25 years, in a civil trial practice and as a prosecutor. She has served as an expert witness or consultant in more than 75 lawsuits involving special needs.

Dr. Price is the author of the law book, The Special Needs Child and Divorce: A Practical Guide to Evaluating and Handling Cases, (2009) Publisher, American Bar Association. She wrote the book, Divorce and the Special Needs Child: A Guide for Parents (2010) Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.

She is the author of additional books on autism and special needs, as well as two legal thriller novels.

She has written more than 1,900 published articles over the years as a freelance writer on the subjects of law, taxes, business, finance, medicine, and special needs, in addition to the scholarly articles she writes as part of her academic career.

Organizations and members of the autism community throughout the United States and other countries contact her frequently to serve as a keynote speaker and commencement speaker, participate in national webinars, and give interviews for magazines, television, and radio. She has been a speaker at autism forums at medical schools and presented at numerous national autism conferences and the World Autism Congress in South Africa. Dr. Price is an autism therapist, trained in the Judevine method.

Dr. Price is a member of the Missouri Bar and Mensa.

Dawne Mitchell, Esq.

Attorney-in-Charge, Juvenile Rights Practice
The Legal Aid Society

From law intern to Attorney in Charge. Dawne’s career at the Legal Aid Society spans more than 20 years and it speaks volumes for her commitment to justice for New Yorkers and particularly for its most vulnerable community – New York City’s children.

As an integral leader at the Society, Dawne’s comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of the Juvenile Rights Practice, transformational management style, strategic business acumen, litigation expertise, creativity, and perseverance, she oversees the operations and delivery of services for more than 34,000 clients each year.

With a team of more than 350 staff attorneys, social workers, paralegal, investigators, support staff and volunteers on the front lines— Dawne ensures comprehensive direct legal representation to children and youth in child welfare and juvenile justice matters. Dawne’s dedicated focus on empowering children and families has led to fundamental advancements in the practice —her leadership has sought to challenge and impact the racial disparities and systemic issues that have led to the poor outcomes for children, disruption of families, limited educational advancement of youth in care, and a burdened system of care for children and families for generations.

Dawne was appointed to serve on the NYS Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, the First Department Advisory Committee, and is a member of several New York City Bar Association committees and workgroups. Dawne’s collaborative work with leaders across the City and State continues to build on stronger and more conscientious child-centered policy and best practices.

Prof. Solangel Maldonado

Professor of Law
Seton Hall University School of Law

Professor Maldonado’s research and teaching interests include family law, feminist legal theory, race and the law, and international and comparative family law. Over the past decade, her scholarship has focused on the intersection of race and family law and the law’s influence on social norms of post-separation parenthood. She is currently working on a book that examines how the law shapes romantic preferences and how these preferences perpetuate racial hierarchy and economic and social inequality.

Professor Maldonado is one of the reporters of the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law, Children and the Law (in progress) and co-editor of Family Law: Cases and Materials (Foundation Press, 7th ed. 2019) (with Judith Areen, Marc Spindelman, and Philomila Tsoukala) and Family Law in the World Community (Carolina Academic Press, 3rd ed. 2015) (with D. Marianne Blair, Merle H. Weiner, and Barbara Stark). She also serves on the editorial board of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Quarterly.

Prior to joining the Seton Hall faculty, Professor Maldonado was a litigation associate with Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, LLP and with Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in New York. She also clerked for then District Court Judge Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., now on the United States Court of Appeals. She received her B.A. from Columbia College and her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and the Managing Editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. She has taught at Cardozo Law School, the University of Illinois College of Law, and Columbia Law School, where she was a visiting scholar in the Center for the Study of Law and Culture in 2015-2016.

Nathalie Gonzalez, Esq.

Legal Director
Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)

Nathalie Gonzalez is Legal Director for Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT). LIFT is a nonprofit organization that provides information and assistance to self-represented parties in New York City Family Court, particularly with respect to custody, visitation, child support, and related matters. LIFT has been providing services virtually during the pandemic. Nathalie received her J.D. from New York Law School.

Lynda D. Munro, Esq.

Of Counsel
Pullman & Comley LLC

Lynda B. Munro, Connecticut Superior Court Judge (Ret.) is Of Counsel at Pullman & Comley in the firm's Family Law practice.

Former Judge Munro retired in 2014 after 20 years of distinguished service on the Connecticut bench. She served as a Presiding Judge for the Family Division of the New Haven Superior Court, Chief Administrative Judge for Family Matters from 2008-2013, and Presiding Judge of the Regional Family Docket for seven years. She has assisted parties and counsel in resolving hundreds of couples and high-conflict family disputes.

Judge Munro has extensive experience in the area of civil matters. She has sat on the Complex Litigation Docket, special proceedings, jury and court trials. She both tried and mediated a wide array of tort and contract cases including commercial disputes, medical malpractice, legal malpractice and trade secrets matters. Additionally, Judge Munro was an affordable housing judge for many years. Because of her years of writing and trying cases to the bench, she is particularly well-suited to assist our Appellate practice.

During her judicial career, Judge Munro heard cases in the Meriden, New London, New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Middlesex and Stamford-Norwalk judicial districts. Before being sworn in as a Superior Court Judge in 1994, Judge Munro spent 15 years as a private practice attorney representing municipalities, individuals and business entities in municipal, land use, civil and family matters.

The former chair of the Judicial Education Committee, Judge Munro taught classes in civil, general and family law to the Superior Court Bench for more than 10 years. She also taught numerous courses through the Connecticut Bar Association, the New England Bar Association, the Connecticut Chapter of Matrimonial Lawyers, the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association and many other organizations, consortiums and associations. For the past six years, she has been an adjunct law professor at Quinnipiac Law School. In addition, she provides training in best practices in ADR to law firms.

Judge Munro serves on the editorial board of Family Law Quarterly, a publication of the American Bar Association. She is a Trustee Emeritus of Connecticut College and was recently awarded the Connecticut College Medal, the highest honor the College can confer, for her accomplishments and service.

Pro. Elizabeth G. Thornburg

Professor of Law
SMU Dedman School of Law

Professor Thornburg teaches and writes in the area of civil procedure and alternative dispute resolution. Drawing on her experience with civil rights and commercial litigation, her scholarship focuses on the procedural fairness of the litigation process, especially at the pleadings, discovery, and jury charge stages. She also writes and speaks in the areas of comparative procedure, online dispute resolution, and the intersection of law and culture.

Professor Thornburg's articles have appeared in a number of prominent law reviews in the U.S. and abroad. She is the co-author (with Professor Dorsaneo) of a study guide for Civil Procedure and two Texas procedure casebooks, and has contributed chapters to books on civil procedure issues in consumer law, sports law, computer law, and classic civil procedure cases. Her most recent book is LAWTALK: THE UNKNOWN STORIES BEHIND FAMILIAR EXPRESSIONS, published by Yale University Press (with co-authors).

She teaches Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Complex Litigation, Texas procedure, Remedies, and an advanced procedure seminar. Thornburg has visited at the law schools at William & Mary, University of Edinburgh, West Virginia University, and the University of Melbourne.

In 2016, the university honored Professor Thornburg with the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award, an annual award that recognizes four SMU faculty members for their notable commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning. In 2013, SMU selected Thornburg to receive the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, an award established by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church for the purpose of recognizing outstanding faculty members for their dedication and contributions to the learning arts and to the institution. Professor Thornburg served as Director of Center for Teaching Excellence from 2012-2014. She held the position of Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 2014-2017.

Samuel Schoonmaker, Esq.

Founding Partner
The Schoonmaker Legal Group, LLC

Sam Schoonmaker practices appellate and family law with the Schoonmaker Legal Group, LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. He is a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Connecticut. Sam joined the board of editors of the Family Law Quarterly in 2008 and has served as one of the two ABA appointees to the Uniform Law Commission’s Joint Editorial Board on Uniform Family Laws since 2013. B.A., Yale College; M. Phil, Cambridge University; J.D., Columbia Law School.

Melissa A. Kucinski

Attorney at Law
MK Family Law

Melissa Kucinski represents individuals, including children, in all types of family law matters. She also mediates family cases. Melissa has a unique background and experience in handling international family matters. She is one of a few mediators in the United States that has experience in handling international parental child abduction cases involving the Hague Child Abduction treaty. Melissa has often been appointed to represent children in high conflict, contested custody litigation, including cases involving abduction and relocation.

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