Robin Wilson


Robin Fretwell Wilson is the Associate Dean for Public Engagement and the Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, where she directs the College of Law’s Family Law and Policy Program and the Epstein Health Law and Policy Program. She specializes in family law and health law, and her research and teaching interests also include biomedical ethics, law and religion, children and violence, and law and science.

Professor Wilson is the author of eleven books, including The Contested Place of Religion in Family Law (Cambridge University Press, 2018, ed.) , Reconceiving the Family:  Critical Reflections on the American Law Institute’s Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution (Cambridge University Press, 2006, ed.); The Handbook of Children, Culture & Violence (Sage Publications, 2006, with Nancy Dowd and Dorothy Singer, eds.); Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008, with Douglas Laycock and Anthony Picarello, eds.); and Health Law and Bioethics:  Cases in Context (Aspen, 2008, with Joan Krause, Sandra Johnson, and Richard Saver, eds.). She is also the co-author of a leading case book in Domestic Relations and a treatise, Understanding Family Law, 4th edition (LexisNexis, 2013, with John DeWitt Gregory and Peter N. Swisher). Professor Wilson’s latest book, Religious Freedom, LGBT Rights, and the Prospects for Common Ground,  with Yale University Professor William Eskridge, Jr., is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. 

Professor Wilson has ranked among the Top Ten Family Law Scholars in the United States for scholarly impact in each ranking done by the Leiter Report since 2010. Professor Wilson was also honored as one of  the 150 for 150: Celebrating the Accomplishments of Women at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for its sesquicentennial celebration in 2018. She ranks among the Top 10% of Authors in all time downloads on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).  Professor Wilson’s scholarship has been cited by the Fifth, Seventh and Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, lower federal courts, and the Supreme Courts of Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, and Washington. 

A member of the American Law Institute, Professor Wilson was elected in 2014 to the Executive Council of the International Society of Family Law. Professor Wilson is a consultant to the United Arab Emirates’ Judicial Department and is assisting them to create a parallel court system for the adjudication by expatriates of family law matters using the laws of their home country or of their faith traditions. She chairs the Law and Religion section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), and is the past chair of the AALS’ Section on Family and Juvenile Law and the AALS’ Section on Law, Medicine & Healthcare.

Professor Wilson has worked extensively on behalf of state law reform efforts, recently helping Utah state lawmakers to pass anti-discrimination legislation that balances religious liberty and LGBT rights. In 2007, she received the Citizen’s Legislative Award for her work on changing Virginia’s informed consent law. In 2018, Professor Wilson received the Thomas L. Kane Religious Freedom Award from the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, which is presented annually to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of religious liberty for all and who has contributed in significant ways to the defense of religious freedom in the public square.

Professor Wilson directs the Fairness for All Initiative, which seeks to provide tangible support and advice to thought-leaders, stakeholders, policymakers, and state and local legislators who seek balanced approaches that respect both LGBT rights and religious freedom. The Fairness for All Initiative is made possible by the generous support of the Templeton Religion Trust. Professor Wilson is the founder and director of the Tolerance Means Dialogues, a gift-supported effort to generate dialogue around deeply-contested questions in civil society.  She is joined in that effort by prominent gay rights leaders and sitting legislators.

Professor Wilson is also a co-investigator with faculty at the University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES) on a new project supported by the National Science Foundation examining “Family Court Decisions About Child Custody in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence.” With her colleagues at ACES, Professor Wilson received a Future Interdisciplinary Research Explorations Seed Grant from the University of Illinois College of ACES Office of Research to examine “The Impact of Access to Marriage on the Daily Lives of Same-Sex Couples.”

Professor Wilson’s work has been featured in the New York TimesWall Street JournalNational Public Radio’s All Things ConsideredWashington PostLos Angeles TimesThe Atlantic MonthlyU.S. News and World ReportABA JournalChronicle of Higher EducationChicago TribuneCNN Headline NewsGood Morning AmericaABC NewsCBS NewsPhiladelphia InquirerEssence MagazineThe American ProspectPeople MagazineThe American ConservativeThe Australian, The Guardian and Al Jazeera, among others. She has presented her research across the world, including the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as in Peru, China, Israel, Qatar, the Netherlands, Italy, England, Wales, Poland, Spain, Serbia, Japan, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, and France.

Prior to joining the University of Illinois College of Law, she was the Class of 1958 Law Alumni Professor of Law at Washington & Lee School of Law, where she was named Professor of the Year by the Women Law Students Organization. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Professor Wilson clerked for The Honorable E. Grady Jolly on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and practiced at Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP and Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton, LLP.


Professor Wilson's COMPLETE CV



BA, JD University of Virginia



Biomedical Ethics
Children and the Law
Family Law


Health Law
Insurance Law
Religious Liberty