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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Divorce and Family Mediation (Spring 2019)

  • Course Number: LAW-853
  • Class Number: 03622
  • Instructor: Jennifer J. Winestone and Karinya Verghese

Course Description


Course Description

In the Divorce and Family Mediation Course, students learn the practice and theory required to successfully navigate through a range of family law issues, including divorce, property, complex custody issues and immigration disputes. In doing this, students will explore the many factors that affect and inform the mediation process, including procedure, power, culture, personality, and ethics.  Students will learn how to effectively facilitate a family law mediation through simulations, demonstrations, complex analysis, and discussion, based on real-life scenarios.  With a balanced blend of theory and practice, this course is designed to provide advanced level mediation training to future family law mediators and lawyers and develop transferrable dispute resolution skills for all class participants.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

Describe and define the varied components of divorce and family mediation.
Describe and define the specific and unique issues related to this area of practice, key psychological and emotional challenges that a mediator must navigate, and techniques for coaching parties through communication barriers commonly found in a variety of family disputes. 
Demonstrate and exhibit the skills necessary to conduct a family law mediation as a neutral, as measured by class journal entries, responses to discussion, engagement in class mediation simulations, participation in a final 3-hour capstone mediation simulation based on real-life parties and circumstances.
Demonstrate and exhibit skills necessary to conduct a family law mediation by independently researching a topic of the student’s choice related to divorce and family mediation and by writing a final paper based on independent study and hypothesis regarding the future of divorce and family mediation

Prerequisite(s): None

Co-Requisite (s): None

Concurrent Enrollment: None

Units – 2

Grading – Numeric or CR/D/F

Required Readings and Supplementary Materials

The Complete Guide to Mediation: The Cutting-Edge Approach to Family Law Practice, Forest S. Mosten and Elizabeth Potter Scully, 2nd ed. ABA Book Publishing (2015).

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini, William Morrow and Company, Inc.(1984)

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisionsl, Dan Ariely, HarperCollins Publishers (2009)

The Co-Parenting Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted and Resilient Kids from Little Ones to Young Adults through Divorce and Separation, Karen Bonnell, Sasquatch Books (2017)

In addition, student shall be provided with articles, worksheets and other materials as selected by the instructors.

Description and Assessment of Assignments

During the semester students will be required to complete various written and performance based assignments which will include the following:

Weekly class simulations and discussions;
Weekly typed class journal entries or other written assignments; and
Final paper based on independent study and hypothesis regarding the future of divorce and family mediation.

Grading Breakdown

The Divorce and Family Mediation Course is a graded course.

Class attendance and participation (10%). Students are required to attend all class meetings. Active and meaningful contributions to class discussion, skill proficiency in preparing for and conducting simulations are essential components for receiving credit for this course.

Journals and Other Written Assignments (20%).  Written assignments, including journal entries, should be timely submitted, and demonstrate an understanding of the readings and class discussions. Students shall be required to keep a Journal during the Divorce and Family Mediation Course.  The Journal will consist of two to three double spaced typed pages for each class session.  The Journal should be turned in weekly at the beginning of class.  The Journal will be graded at the end of the semester and will factor into the student’s participation grade.

Capstone Mediation (20%).  At the end of the semester, students shall participate in a 3-hour family mediation simulation.  Students will work in groups of 3 and rotate in the role of the mediator. Capstone simulations will be coached and observed by professional family mediators, in addition to the instructors. Additional information about the Capstone mediation will be discussed in class.   

Final Paper (50%).  Each student will research and write a final course paper on a topic that is 10-12 pages in length, double spaced.  Additional information about the final paper will be discussed in class.

Assignment Submission Policy

Assignments are due on the date and at the time specified. Late submissions may not be accepted for credit unless prior arrangements are made with the instructors.

Additional Policies                                                                                                                  


Attendance at every class meeting is important. Sign-in sheets are used to record attendance and are circulated during class. It is the student’s responsibility to assure that they have signed the attendance sign-in sheet each week. If a student must be absent for unavoidable reasons the student is expected to contact the instructor in advance. Students should be knowledgeable about, and review requirements for course attendance in the USC Law School Student Handbook, Section 5.0. According to the “general rule,” which is adopted for this course, Students may miss one class session per course unit-hour without an excuse

Class Participation

Students are expected to read all materials assigned for each class meeting and are expected to be prepared to participate in discussions, simulations and presentations when called upon.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 2
  • Grading Options: Numerical or CR/D/F
  • Schedule: 3/1, 3/2, 3/29, 3/30
  • Exam: Paper, mediation simulations
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: Yes
  • Participation: Required and graded