Pre-Conference Institutes

11:30AM - 1:00PM

1. Parent-Child Contact Disruption in Multi-Problem Families: What Do We know? What Can We Do?

Despite polarized rhetoric, most professionals recognize that parent-child contact problems are inherently complex. Families in these cases often bring additional challenges with them, such as developmental or mental health problems that contribute to relational rifts. Solutions for these children and families are also complex and may require both interdisciplinary cooperation and creative use of resources. This program will address the factors that create relational rifts in multi-problem families, including both aggravating factors and interventions that promote resilience, resolution and healthy child development. The presenters will explore practical interventions, including methods for introducing forgiveness and healing.


Lyn R. Greenberg, PhD, ABPP, Los Angeles, CA
John A. Moran, PhD, Key Biscayne, FL
Shely Polak, Phd, AccFM, Mackenzie Clinic, Concord, ON, Canada

2. Everything Lawyers Ever Wanted to Know About High Conflict Divorce but Are Afraid to Ask

Working in family law is professionally challenging work as attorneys often face substantively and procedurally complex cases. This institute will respond to the questions attorneys have identified as those they would most like to ask an experienced psychologist and family law specialist about working in high conflict divorces, if given the opportunity. The institute promises lively, wide-ranging dialogue between two former presidents of AFCC as they address what lawyers believe to be the most difficult questions.


Matthew J. Sullivan, PhD, Santa Cruz, CA
Annette T. Burns, JD, Law Offices of Annette T. Burns, Phoenix, AZ

Pre-Conference Institutes

1:30PM - 3:00PM

1. Parent-Child Contact Disruption in Multi-Problem Families: What Do We know? What Can We Do?

2. Everything Lawyers Ever Wanted to Know About High Conflict Divorce but Are Afraid to Ask

Pre-Conference Institutes

3:30PM - 4:30PM

1. Parent-Child Contact Disruption in Multi-Problem Families: What Do We know? What Can We Do?

2. Everything Lawyers Ever Wanted to Know About High Conflict Divorce but Are Afraid to Ask

Concurrent Workshops 1-2

11:30AM - 1:00PM

1. Safety and Access: Balancing Best Interests in Families with Substance Use Disorder

When one parent has a substance use disorder, family law professionals must balance safety with a child’s right, and often desire, to maintain contact with that parent. This workshop will include a discussion of the impact of substance misuse on family dynamics, assessment, monitoring, consideration of supervised parenting time, and healing. The presenters will also explore professional collaboration and interventions designed to mitigate conflict and to support healing for members of the family system.


Leslie M. Drozd, PhD, Seattle, WA
Stephanie Tabashneck,, PsyD, JD, Newton, MA

2. Children’s Experience in Patterns of Coercive Control

This program will expand the knowledge of participants’ understanding of domestic violence as multidimensional to include the children’s experience while challenging the heuristics and biases that endanger adult and child victims’ safety in the context of coercive control with respect to racism, sexism, classism, and ethnocentrism. Participants will learn to examine their heuristic and biases that prevent them from making accurate assessments, parenting time and treatment recommendations, or providing safe, appropriate trauma treatment when patterns of coercive control are misunderstood.


Cynthia Lischick, Phd, LPC, Clarksburg, NJ
Jenna Saul, MD, DFAACAP, Kenosha, WI

Opening Session

1:30PM - 3:00PM

Children, Mental Health, and Family Law

Exposure to parental conflict can cause significant stress and even trauma for children. This can increase their risk for mental and physical health problems, and have a negative impact on all aspects of their development. Many parents do not fully understand or intend to cause harm to their children and others act with a genuine belief that they are protecting their children from the actions of the other parent. Regardless of parental mindset, traditional approaches to these problems aren’t always effective or based on current scientific knowledge and may end up exacerbating the trauma-impact for children rather than using the court’s authority to ensure that children and families receive appropriate services. The presenters will examine an age-old dilemma with a new lens, including the importance of interdisciplinary communication, more effective judicial processes, early interventions for families in transition, effective approaches to treatment, ideas for clear court orders, and structured problem-solving techniques.


April Harris-Britt, PhD, AHB Forensics and Consulting, Durham, NC
Lyn R. Greenberg, PhD, ABPP, Los Angeles, CA
Hon. Bruce R. Cohen, Maricopa County Superior Court, Phoenix, AZ

Concurrent Workshops 3-4

3:30PM - 5:00PM

3. The Voice of the Child in the Mediation of Parenting Disputes

There are several ways to include the child’s voice in mediation between parents in conflict over their child’s parenting plan. One method is the mediator interviewing the child as part of the mediation process, and another is for a child specialist to conduct an interview and present the information in mediation. The child’s views and needs can help parents transform their negative focus from each other into a positive focus on their child. This can help parents move towards resolution in a way that benefits the child’s needs and interests. Participants will learn: (1) when interviewing the children would be beneficial in mediation; (2) how to conduct such an interview; (3) how the child’s information might be used to help parents focus on their child’s needs.


Corinne (Cookie) Levitz, JD, Family Mediation Services, Chicago, IL
Casey A. Holtz, PhD, Family Mediation Center, Milwaukee, WI

4. Developing a Parenting Education Course for Indigenous Families

Presenters will highlight the importance of collaborative practices when working with indigenous populations by reviewing the process the Family Justice Services Division of BC Public Service Agency underwent in the development of Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families (PAS-IF) course. Collaborative practices are considered bottom-up approaches that are inherently based in relationship building communication, and centering Indigenous voices. This presentation will provide an overview of the entire course development process, including a comparison between typical course development and the practices utilized for the development and evaluation of PAS-IF.

Danielle Bergevin, MSW, Ministry of Attorney General, Victoria, BC, Canada
Chelsea Kelly, BSW, RSW, Hulitan Family and Community Services, Victoria, BC, Canada
Kristine Heaney, MEd, Ministry of Attorney General, Victoria, BC, Canada

Concurrent Workshops 5-6

11:30AM - 1:00PM

5. Do We Know Best? Bringing the Voice of the Child into the Courtroom

This workshop will provide a stimulating discussion of what children living in two households need from their parents. Kids’ Turn San Diego offers a whole-family co-parenting program, which helps children who have experienced the breakup of their family understand their thoughts and feelings, teaches them that the divorce is not their fault, and provides coping skills that unburden children from adult worries. Parents gain insight about the impact of their words and behaviors. Child and parent perspectives will be presented to bridge the intersection of these perspectives and ensure the child’s voice is not lost. Presenters will explore how court proceedings might be fertile ground for judges, therapists, and educators to consider what we can do better to be sure the child’s voice is not lost. The presenters will examine how court proceedings can provide a valuable opportunity to identify areas for improvement and ensure that the child’s voice is not lost.

Hon. Sharon Kalemkiarian, San Diego County Superior Court, San Diego, CA
Cindy Grossman LCSW, Kids’ Turn San Diego, San Diego, CA

6. Now What? Expectations, Roles, and Outcomes in Supervised Parenting Time

Once supervised parenting time is ordered for a family in crisis, what comes next? This workshop examines the roles of the supervised parenting time provider, expectations that families, lawyers, and judges should have about moving forward, best practices in supervised parenting time, and outcomes for the family and the legal proceedings.

Katherine Meger Kelsey, JD, Kids’ Voice of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN
Claudia Needleman, BA, Kids’ Voice of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN

Plenary Session

1:30PM - 3:00PM

Trauma-Informed Lawyering

This session will introduce participants to the principles of trauma-informed legal practice, with emphasis on specific skills that attorneys and others working with court-involved families can utilize in preparing for court and in court. The session will offer a judicial perspective on trauma-informed judicial practice and a psychologist’s perspective on lawyers understanding the impact of trauma on children, assisting their parent clients in being trauma informed so that parenting meets children’s needs, as well as how attorneys can help the court incorporate information about trauma in their decisions about children. The presenters will highlight opportunities for trauma-informed systemic reform which attorneys, judges and other professionals can implement.

Hon. Liberty Aldrich, Bronx Family Court, Bronx, NY
Sarah Katz, JD, Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia, PA
Mindy F. Mitnick, EdM, MA, Minneapolis, MN

Concurrent Workshops 7-8

3:30PM - 5:00PM

7. Discipline versus Abuse: An African American Child Discipline Continuum Model

Most African American children will undergo a CPS investigation at some point in their childhood, which has been identified as the stop-and-frisk of African American families. Attendees will learn how to address racial bias in determining when child discipline crosses the line to child abuse in African American families.


Carla R. Adkison-Johnson, PhD, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Trae Bell, MS, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI

8. Interviewing the Traumatized Child in Family Law Cases

For a variety of reasons, family law cases are likely to involve children who have had traumatic experiences. This advanced workshop will provide practical tips and tools for all professionals whose work involves interviewing children: evaluators, attorneys, guardians at litem, mediators, therapists, and judicial officers. Topics will include the impact of trauma on children’s functioning abilities during interviews, strategies for engaging children in the interview process, and techniques for obtaining reliable information from them.

Mindy F. Mitnick, EdM, MA, Edina, MN

Concurrent Workshops 9-10

11:30AM - 1:00PM

9. The Perils of Our Work: Individual and Systemic Considerations

There is an adage that lawyers in criminal court have clients who are bad people on their best behavior and lawyers in family court have clients who are good people on their worst behavior. Some individuals involved in the family courts choose to channel their discontent through social media, involvement in agenda-driven groups, and legislative efforts. This session explores these perils, aims to increase awareness, and consider both proactive and responsive efforts by both individual practitioners and the professional groups that exist to advocate for us.

Regina M. Marshall, PhD, Monterey, CA
Shawn McCall,, PsyD, JD, san Francisco, CA

10. Refuting the 5 Factor Model: Best Practice Requires a Systems Approach to PCCP

Today’s family courts commonly encounter children who are strongly aligned with Parent A and who reject Parent B. In the interest of supporting these children’s opportunity to enjoy a healthy relationship with both (all) of their caregivers, one can either work to determine which parent is at fault or work to determine what combination of relationship dynamics and practical circumstances have yielded this outcome and must be addressed to resolve it. The Five Factor Model (5FM) does the former, promoting a flawed, stepwise approach to differentiating between alienation and estrangement. A careful analysis finds the five factors to be vague, tautological, biased against Parent A, and built upon a weak empirical foundation. The 5FM additionally promotes a binary or zero-sum perspective that can exacerbate family tensions and associated litigation. Best practice requires that evaluators must instead work to understand the larger relationship ecology associated with the child’s polarized position. A rubric is prescribed that can guide evaluators to understand the full range of systemic dynamics and minimize associated bias.

Benjamin D. Garber, PhD, Family Law Consulting, Nashua, NH

Concurrent Workshops 11-12

1:30PM - 3:00PM

11. Saying the Quiet Parts Out Loud: A Conversation Between Advocates and Evaluators

This workshop provides a behind-the-scenes look at a child custody evaluation from the perspectives of the professionals involved and is focused on how to balance the sometimes competing objectives of framing a parent’s narrative, relaying reliable information to the court, and providing useful recommendations. Mental health professionals and family law attorneys will discuss topics including how to prepare for a child custody evaluation, parent coaching, and strength and utility of the resulting reports. This discussion will identify diverging approaches of advocates and evaluators and highlight strategies for collaboration for these seeming adversaries.

No hanouts - conversation format

Stephanie Curtin, JD, Brick, Jones, McBrien & Hickey LLP, Needham, MA
Yael B. Osman, PhD, Center of Excellence for Children, Families & the Law, William James College, Newton, MA
Jessica P. Greenwald O’Brien, PhD, Center of Excellence for Children, Families & the Law, William James College, Newton, MA
Alexander D. Jones, JD, MSW, Brick, Jones, McBrien & Hickey LLP, Needham, MA

12. The Paradox of Power: A Coach Approach Amid Intimate Partner Violence Allegations

When parents experience power imbalances, unchecked emotions, and identity challenges, it can be difficult to form healthy co-parenting relationships, especially when intimate partner violence is part of their experience. A coaching approach provides a structured and supportive environment for parents to recognize and unpack these patterns. Coaches help parents discover tools to manage their emotions and behavior, emphasizing personal responsibility. Through inquiry, observation, feedback, and support, parents find their authentic voice and create a new narrative, allowing positive behaviors to emerge. Join us to learn more!

Hon. Randall Fuller, Delaware County Common Pleas Court, Delaware, OH
Amy Armstrong, MSW, Delaware County Domestic Relations Court, Delaware, OH

Concurrent Workshops 13-14

3:30PM - 5:00PM

13. Doubling Down: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Cases with Resist/Refuse Dynamics

Families engaged in therapy and the family court system, as well as the providers who support them, must concurrently navigate a legal timeline imposed by the court and a therapeutic timeline needed for successful treatment. This program will explore the benefits and logistics of employing an interdisciplinary team approach of attorneys, parent coordinators, and clinicians to Multifaceted Family Therapy (MFFT) to more seamlessly navigate these timelines (which are often at odds) and support families in effective conflict resolution while permitting each professional and the team itself to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Premela Gillian Deck, JD, PhD, SD Family Services, Inc., Canton, MA
Tony Pelusi, JD, CPCC, Tony Pelusi & Associates, North Andover, MA
Jacqueline Cafaro, MSW, LCSW, SD Family Services, Inc., Canton, MA

14. One Size Does Not Fit All: A View on Focused Assessments

A child custody evaluation is a behemoth of an undertaking. The scope is both broad and narrow. For many families, the overabundance of data collected is not relevant to the dispute. Moreover, the results often do not speak directly to the original inquiry of the judge. In contrast, a focused assessment seeks to respond to a particular inquiry by following a particular course of procedures. In this workshop, the presenters will review the legal and psychological relevance of focused assessments. This will allow the courts, with input of the attorneys and the attorney for the child, to narrowly identify the specific issues that need clarification for trial, hearing, or settlement.


Leah R. Younger, PsyD, Younger Psychology, PLLC, Garden City, NY
Martin E. Friedlander, JD, Martin Friedlander, PC, Brooklyn, NY

Concurrent Workshops 15-16

11:30AM - 1:00PM

15. Enhancing Children’s Participation in Child Protection and Parenting Mediations

The Ontario Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) appoints legal representatives for children in child protection ADR. Recently, the OCL piloted a project, in partnership with a court-connected mediation organization, to provide OCL representation in parenting mediations, either through legal representation or a Voice of the Child Report. This pilot project has been named Child and Youth Informed Mediation. Join us to learn about how these programs were developed, what services are offered and how they differ from other jurisdictions, what the pilot project research has revealed, and how these initiatives are being received.


Jane Long, LLB, Office of the Children’s Lawyer, Toronto, ON, Canada
Antoinette Clarke, MSW, RSW, York Univ., Mississauga, ON, Canada
Tami Moscoe, LLB, Superior Court of Justice, Toronto, ON, Canada
Manjula Sharma, MSW, Office of the Children’s Lawyer, Toronto, ON, Canada

16. When Worlds Collide: Attorneys and Mental Health Experts on the Same Side?

Attorney-mental health expert consultation within child custody matters has become common with far reaching implications for the information provided to and relied upon by our family court system. Nevertheless, this area of service lacks clearly defined standards of practice for professional conduct, leaving wide discretion to those providing such services. This workshop identifies the scope and range of consultation roles through discussion and live action demonstrations. Audience participation will provide specific detail regarding the avoidance of pitfalls and compliance with best practice in this area of work.


David Medoff, PhD, Forensic Assoc. of Boston, Newtonville, MA
Mary M. Ferriter, JD, MPA, Esdaile, Barrett, Jacobs & Mone, Boston, MA
Alexander D. Jones, JD, MSW, Brick, Jones, McBrien & Hickey LLP, Needham, MA

Concurrent Workshops 17-18

1:30PM - 3:00PM

17. Hague Kidnapping Convention: When Swift Return Goal Collides with Grave Risk

With the recent Supreme Court Case of Golan v. Saada, practitioners must be more aware of how to present the necessary evidence when raising the grave risk of harm defense in Hague Kidnapping Convention cases and, when necessary, how to carefully craft return orders when domestic violence is alleged in order to protect the taking parent and child in the event a return is ordered. Join this session to learn more about these critical issues.

Wendy O. Hickey, JD, MA, Brick, Jones, McBrien & Hickey LLP, Needham, MA
Valerie Cooney, JD, Brick, Jones, McBrien & Hickey LLP, Needham, MA

18. Artificial Intelligence and Co-parenting

The rapid growth of artificial intelligence has widespread implications for family law, mental health, and dispute resolution practitioners. This session will examine artificial intelligence and technology available and present options for incorporating technology into a co-parenting practice. Presenters will then provide suggestions that are working, identify trends for upcoming tech, and discuss some of the ethical tech-related pitfalls to avoid.



Clare E. Fowler, EdD, Mediate.Com, Eugene, OR
Colin Rule, MPP, Mediate.Com, San Jose, CA

Concurrent Workshops 19-20

3:30PM - 5:00PM

19. Family Violence: Voices of Racialized Immigrant Youth and Their Best Interests

Developed directly from the voices of racialized immigrant youth in Canada, this interactive workshop will present the research findings and case studies of children who had witnessed or experienced high levels of conflict or family violence as children. Through these direct insights from the youth, the presenters examine the connection between the best interest of the child and children’s safety issues complicated by intersectional identities such as race and immigration issues and impact of systems. The children’s voices will inform the professional’s risk assessment and children’s best interest analysis.

Archana Medhekar, LLM, AccFM, Toronto, ON, Canada
Purnima George, MSW, PhD, School of Social Work, Toronto Metropolitan Univ. Toronto, ON, Canada
Bethany J. Osborne, PhD, Sheridan College, Brampton, ON, Canada
Ferzana Chaze, MSW, PhD, Sheridan College, Oakville, ON, Canada

20. Access to Justice: Myth or Reality

Access to justice is a fundamental right for all members of society, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, many lower-income individuals face significant barriers when attempting to access legal services. This workshop will explore the challenges faced by these individuals in terms of service, language and available resources. Limited access to legal services during regular business hours can be a significant obstacle for low-income individuals who work during the day. Language barriers also pose a significant challenge for low-income individuals, ultimately the lack of community low-cost resources can leave them without the ability to participate fully in what is being required of them (i.e.: drug testing, supervised visits, childcare). This workshop will offer some proposed solutions to consider in working with these populations.

There are no handouts at this time.

Sonji Walker, MSW, LCSW, Unified Family Court Mediation, Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Jeaneen Johnson, MA, Unified Family Court Mediation, Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Venecia Margarita, MSW, Unified Family Court Mediation, Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Felicia Fleming, MSW, LCSW, Family Court Services, Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA