The Graduate Program in Family Law, which leads to an LL.M. degree, is designed to equip graduates for practice in the increasingly sophisticated and rapidly evolving field of family law. This program offers a unique mixture of cutting-edge practice training and legal theory to prepare students for a variety of family law related careers.
Family law is unique in modern law practice because it remains a general practice career. Beyond basic divorce and family law, practitioners must know tax law, real estate law, partnership law, contract law, child psychology, and other topics. As each of these sub-areas has ballooned, so has the expertise that a family law practitioner must bring into his or her practice. Effective education in both the technique and substance of modern family law practice is necessary for success in this competitive and dynamic field. Chicago-Kent's LLM in Family Law provides this education.
In the past 30 years, rapidly changing social norms and dramatic technological advances have revolutionized the field of family law. As more attorneys enter the field and the practice of family law becomes more complex, demand increases for lawyers with greater family law expertise.
Recent developments in family law include:
- Blossoming forms of inchoate property (stock options, intellectual property rights, partnership arrangements) that need to be divided at divorce.
- Increased labor force participation from women necessitating an alteration of a needs-based compensation system at divorce.
- Social acceptance of non-marital cohabitation leading to increased reliance (for both straight and gay people) on contract and quasi-contract theories of property distribution at dissolution.
- Emergence of same-sex marriage and civil unions.
- Increased acceptance of same-sex partners adopting and parenting children, leading to a plethora of legal questions regarding the origin and nature of parental rights.
- Rapid technological advances in reproduction distilling the genetic and gestational reproduction from intent to parent (surrogate mothers, IVF, rights of sperm donors, open adoption, etc.), raising myriad questions about parenting claims, rights and duties.
- Recent advances in genetics testing that may affect the law regarding parentage.
- Burgeoning psychological theory relating to children, which is becoming central in all litigation involving children.
In the last five years alone, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has reported a 25 percent increase in overall membership. In the last year, the Illinois Supreme Court decided 17 family law cases. The Illinois appellate courts decided 102 family law cases.