Joan S. Meier

Portrait of Joan S. Meier
Professor of Clinical Law
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
[email protected]

Joan Meier is a Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the National Family Violence Law Center at the George Washington University Law School. Professor Meier has been a clinical law professor for 29 years at GW Law, where she founded three pioneering and nationally recognized interdisciplinary domestic violence clinical programs. She has published widely on domestic violence, custody, clinical teaching, criminal procedure, and various Supreme Court decisions. Her major study, “Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations,” funded by the National Institute of Justice, was completed in 2019. Its findings have been written about in scholarship and multiple media outlets including The Washington Post and The New Yorker

In August 2019, Professor Meier stepped down from the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), the nonprofit she founded in 2003 to provide pro bono appeals in domestic violence cases. While at DV LEAP, she was the co-author of eleven amicus briefs and three party briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also represented domestic violence organizations and survivors of domestic violence in state court appeals all over the country and in Washington, DC. DV LEAP’s cases involved custody and child protection, enforcement of civil protection orders, criminal prosecution of batterers, and other issues.  Professor Meier has provided numerous trainings for judges, psychologists, lawyers, domestic violence coalitions, and others on best practices in adjudication of domestic violence and family court litigation and on her empirical research.

DV LEAP and Professor Meier have received several awards, including among others, the American Bar Association’s first ever Sharon L. Corbitt Award, which recognizes exceptional service and leadership in improving the legal response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and/or stalking; and the Outstanding Leadership Award from Justice for Children in 2007. Professor Meier received the Cahn Award from the National Equal Justice Library for her article on domestic violence and welfare reform. She was featured as a commentator in “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Voices,” the PBS documentary that aired in October 2005.

She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1980, cum laude from the University of Chicago Law School in 1983, and clerked on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Curriculum Vitae     Publications


BA, Harvard University; JD, University of Chicago

In the News

"Are Women More Likely to Lose Custody If They Claim Their Child Has Been Sexually Abused by the Father?"

August 21, 2020

Joan S. Meier is cited by Forbes about her research finding that mothers often lose custody when they allege abuse by fathers.

"Abusers Claim 'Parental Alienation' to Gain Custody of Kids"

August 17, 2020

Joan S. Meier is quoted in about how allegations of abuse are often treated as a form of parental alienation.

"Maryland Lawmakers and Experts Recommend Changes to Child Custody Court Proceedings"

July 28, 2020

Joan S. Meier is cited by DCist for her study examining custody cases involving child abuse, domestic violence, and alienation.

"Virtual Hearings Put Children, Abuse Victims at Ease in Court"

July 23, 2020

Joan S. Meier is quoted by Bloomberg Law about how the courtroom experience can be traumatizing for children and abuse victims.

"Treaty Created to Stop Child Abductions Could Now Be Protecting Abusers"

July 20, 2020

Joan S. Meier is quoted in WhoWhatWhy about how a child protection treaty is being used by abusers to gain access to their children.