Jessica Dixon Weaver

Headshot of Jessica Dixon Weaver, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law

Full-time faculty


Jessica Dixon Weaver is the Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law at SMU Dedman School of Law. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she served as Notes Editor for the Virginia Law Review. Professor Weaver is an expert in family law regulation (also known as child welfare law) and the intersection of race, gender, and family law. Her current research and scholarship focus is the impact of slavery laws, race, and gender on marriage and divorce in the antebellum era. She also theorizes about multi-generational living and intergenerational caregiving for elders and children.

Professor Weaver’s scholarship has been published in law journals at University of California - Berkeley, University of Virginia, William and Mary, Washington University, Fordham, Washington and Lee, and Tulane. One of her recent works-in-progress, Slavery and the Origins of Family Law, was selected for presentation at the inaugural Yale Law and Political Economy Conference in 2021. She is the co-author of three books, Family Law Simulations:  Bridge to Practice (West Academic, 2021), Contemporary Family Law, 6th ed. (West Academic, forthcoming 2023), and Adoption Law:  Theory, Policy, and Practice, 3rd ed. (Hein, forthcoming 2024). She serves on the Editorial Board of the Family Law Quarterly, a scholarly peer-reviewed journal of the ABA, and is a founding board member of the Lutie Legacy Society.

She has received numerous awards at SMU, including the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Research Fellowship from SMU Dedman School of Law, the 2019 Gerald J. Ford Senior Research Fellowship, and the 2020-21 Thomas W. Tunks Distinguished University Citizen Award. In April 2021, Professor Weaver graduated from the Stagen Leadership Academy’s inaugural Social Change Impact Leadership program. She is the chair of a university-wide Task Force on Social Justice and Equity, which is charged with exploring various ways that SMU can expand faculty research, scholarship, and student opportunities within social justice and equity movements.

Area of expertise

  • Child Welfare Law
  • Children's Rights
  • Family Law
  • Legal Ethics
  • Feminist Legal Issues


B.A., University of Pennsylvania
J.D., University of Virginia School of Law


Children and the Law
Family Law
Advanced Family Law Seminar
Professional Responsibility


CONTEMPORARY FAMILY LAW, 6th ed. (West Academic, forthcoming 2023) (with Douglas E. Abrams, Naomi R. Cahn, Kaiponanea Matsumura, and Linda McClain)



A Critical Race Theory Approach to Children's Rights, 71 American University Law Review 1855 (2022)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Ties that Bind: What Pauli Murray Teaches Us About Race, Family, Slavery and Inequality, 55 Family Law Quarterly 293 (2022)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Perfect Storm: Coronavirus and the Elder Catch, 96 Tulane Law Review 59 (2021)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Changing Tides of Adoption:  Why Marriage, Race, and Family Identity Still Matter, 71 SMU Law Review 159 (2018)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Beyond Child Welfare:  Theories on Child Homelessness, 21 Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice 16 (2014)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Overstepping Ethical Boundaries? Limitations on State Efforts to Provide Access to Justice in Family Courts
, 82 Fordham Law Review 2705 (2014)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Grandma in the White House: Legal Support for Intergenerational Caregiving, 43 Seton Hall Law Review 1 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Principle of Subsidiarity Applied: Reforming the Legal Framework to Capture the Psychological Abuse of Children, 18 Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law 247 (2011)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Texas Mis-step: Why the Largest Child Removal in Modern U.S. History Failed, 16 William & Mary Journal of Women & Law 449 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The African-American Child Welfare Act: A Legal Redress for African-American Disproportionality in Child Protection Cases, 10 Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy 109 (2008)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Book chapters

The Elder Catch: Engineering the Future of Caregiving, in RE-CONCEIVING EQUALITY AND FREEDOM: VULNERABILITY, DEPENDENCY, AND THE RESPONSIVE STATE (Martha Fineman and Laura Spitz, eds., forthcoming 2023)

Intersectionality and Children's Rights, in THE OXFORD HANDBOOK ON CHILDREN'S RIGHTS (Oxford University Press 2020)

Commentary on DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Servicesin FEMINIST JUDGMENTS: FAMILY LAW OPINIONS REWRITTEN (Rachel Rebouche ed. 2020) (with Macarena Saez)

Legislative Solutions to Address Disproportionality and Disparities, in RACIAL DISPROPORTIONALITY AND DISPARITIES IN THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM (Alan J. Dettlaff ed. 2020)

Other publications

Racial Myopia in [Family] Law, 132 Yale Law Journal Forum (2023)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Tribute to Family Law Scholars Who Helped Us Find Our Path: Dorothy E. Roberts, 55 Family Law Quarterly 381 (2021)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The First Father: Perspectives on the President’s Fatherhood Initiative, 50 Family Court Review 297 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

African-American Grandmothers: Does the Gender-Entrapment Theory Apply? Essay Response to Professor Beth Richie, 37 Washington University Journal of Law & Social Policy 153 (2011)
SSRN | SMU Repository


Works in Progress

Uncovering Race in Family Law

Slavery and the Origins of Family Law

#VoteForOurLives: Children and the Right to Vote