Robin Fretwell Wilson

Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law
Director, Program in Family Law and Policy
Director, Epstein Health Law and Policy Program
Professor, Department of Pathology, College of Medicine


Robin Fretwell Wilson is the Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law at the 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.) (in press), 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.); Health Law and Bioethics:  Cases in Context (Aspen, 2008, with Joan Krause, Sandra Johnson, and Richard Saver, eds.); Domestic Relations: Cases and Materials, 8th edition (Foundation Press, 2017, with Walter Wadlington and Raymond C. O’Brien); and Understanding Family Law, 4th edition (LexisNexis, 2013, with John DeWitt Gregory and Peter N. Swisher). Professor Wilson’s latest book, Faith, Sexuality and the Meaning of Freedom, with Yale University Professor William Eskridge, Jr., is under consideration with Cambridge University Press.  Her articles have appeared in the Boston College Law ReviewCornell Law ReviewEmory Law JournalIllinois Law Review, North Carolina Law ReviewSan Diego Law ReviewU.C. Davis Law Review, and Washington and Lee Law Review, as well as in numerous peer-reviewed journals.

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, 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.

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.  In 2010 and again in 2016, Professor Wilson was ranked among the Top Ten Family Law Scholars in the United States for scholarly impact. She ranks among the Top 10% of Authors in all time downloads on the Social Science Research Network. Professor Wilson’s scholarship has been cited by the Fifth, Seventh and Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, lower federal courts, and the Supreme Courts of Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, and Washington. In 2018, Professor Wilson was 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.

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 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.

Prior to Illinois, 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 United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and practiced at Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP and Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton, LLP.


BA, JD University of Virginia

Areas of Expertise

Biomedical Ethics
Children and the Law
Family Law
Health Law
Insurance Law
Religious Liberty


Biomedical Ethics
Child, Culture & Violence
Family Law


FAITH, SEXUALITY AND THE MEANING OF FREEDOM (William Eskridge and Robin Fretweill Wilson, eds.) (in conversation with Cambridge University Press)

THE CONTESTED PLACE OF RELIGION IN FAMILY LIFE (Robin Fretwell Wilson, ed.) (under contract with Cambridge University Press)

DOMESTIC RELATIONS: CASES AND MATERIALS, 8th edition (Walter Wadlington, Raymond C. O’Brien, & Robin Fretwell Wilson, Foundation Press, 2017) (under contract)


STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES FOR TEACHING FAMILY LAW (Robin Fretwell Wilson, Aspen Publishers, 2014)

DOMESTIC RELATIONS: CASES AND MATERIALS, 7th edition (Walter Wadlington, Raymond C. O’Brien, & Robin Fretwell Wilson, Foundation Press, 2013)

UNDERSTANDING FAMILY LAW, 4th edition (John DeWitt Gregory, Peter N. Swisher, & Robin Fretwell Wilson, LexisNexis, 2013)

HEALTH LAW AND BIOETHICS: CASES IN CONTEXT (Sandra H. Johnson, Joan H. Krause, Richard S. Saver, & Robin Fretwell Wilson, eds., Aspen Publishers, 2009)

  • Cited in The Philadelphia Inquirer (Paul Gelsinger, September 2009) and “Human-research oversight is too lax” Arizona Daily Star (Wilson, September 2009)

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: EMERGING CONFLICTS (Douglas Laycock, Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., & Robin Fretwell Wilson, eds., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008)

  • Reviewed or featured in New York Review of Books (David Cole, July 2009), Commonweal Magazine (Robert Vischer, August 2009), Illinois Law Review (Shannon Gilreath, Fall 2009) and U.S. News and World Report (Don Gilgaff, May 2009), among other publications


  • Featured in Essence Magazine (Lashieka Purvis Hunter, November 2012), The Washington Post (Leah Ward Sears, October 2006), New York Times (Wilson, Opinion-Editorial, October 2006), and The Weekly Standard (Claudia Anderson, September 2006), among other publications

HANDBOOK OF CHILDREN, CULTURE & VIOLENCE (Nancy Dowd, Dorothy G. Singer & Robin Fretwell Wilson, eds., Sage Press, 2006) MEDICAL ETHICS AND PROFESSIONALISM: A SYNOPSIS FOR STUDENTS AND RESIDENTS (2002) (co-author with members of the University of South Carolina Center for Biomedical Ethics)

See All Publications