The first AFCC conference was held on Saturday, September 7, 1963, in Los Angeles. Conciliation counselors and judges from six counties in California gathered to talk shop well into the evening. Among those participating in the first inaugural event were two Los Angeles Conciliation Court counselors who would lead AFCC in the future. Meyer Elkin, who would serve as AFCC President in 1977 and as editor of theReview
from 1963 to 1986, and Stanley Cohen, AFCC Executive Director from 1983 to 1988 and co-editor of the Review from 1986 to 1991.
Interest in court-connected services spread beyond California as courts in Hawaii, Idaho, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, Arizona, Montana and several Canadian provinces began establishing court services. By 1964, the AFCC conference had grown to a two-day event with 90 participants coming from several states outside of California. In May of 1967, AFCC held its conference outside of California for the first time in Phoenix, Arizona.
AFCC’s founding members had a different focus from those working in family courts and court services today. The job title for many court service staff members was “marriage counselor.” The work of the counselors focused on reconciliation between husbands and wives. Conference programs and Review
articles emphasized the role of the court as a provider of short-term marriage counseling services and the use of husband-wife agreements to resolve marital disputes to promote reconciliation. The use of trial separation agreements as a way to effect reconciliation was discussed as a novel, albeit controversial, technique. AFCC went on record encouraging then California Governor Ronald Reagan to continue the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Family and “to begin a concerted assault on the high incidence of divorce in our society and its tragic consequences.” Blueprint for a Successful Marriage,
a brochure developed by the Los Angeles Conciliation Court, was made available to other courts through AFCC.
By 1965, AFCC had adopted bylaws and a constitution, and “California” was dropped from the organization’s title. The name was changed to the Conference of Conciliation Courts, recognizing that the appeal of the organization had spread beyond California. By the end of the decade AFCC committees were established to focus on legislation, professional standards, publications and membership.
As the 1960s drew to a close, worldwide social and political changes did not escape AFCC. A 1968 survey of all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that 19 states had some form of court-connected counseling services. No fault divorce became law in California. The December 1969 issue of the Conciliation Courts Review
introduced a new concept to the movement with an editorial by Meyer Elkin titled, “A Conciliation Court Is More Than a Reconciliation Court.” Other articles focused on the role of the attorney in divorce and the development of visitation guidelines. Former AFCC President, and prominent judge, Hon. Byron Lindsey of San Diego, wrote an article questioning whether we were expecting too much of marriage.