Families who experience intimate partner violence and/or resist-refuse dynamics benefit most from responses and interventions tailored to meet their specific needs. With this in mind, discerning practitioners worry that their biases and assumptions may interfere with their efforts to appreciate the unique qualities and needs of families. In this session, participants will explore how using a systematic and label-free approach to cases can improve the quality of their analysis and responses. Presenters and participants will examine and work through the many challenges of these difficult cases.
Robin M. Deutsch, PhD, ABPP, Wellesley, MA
Barbara Jo Fidler, PhD, Families Moving Forward, Toronto, ON, Canada
Loretta Frederick, JD, Battered Women’s Justice Project, Minneapolis, MN
Nancy Ver Steegh, JD, MSW, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, St. Paul, MN
This institute will examine how to best use experts to improve the quality of legal representation and judicial fact-finding orders in family law. Participants will be updated on the latest research, theory, and best practices in three critical areas of family law: (1) Child development and the statutory concepts “maturity” and “the mature minor” applicability to parenting rights and responsibilities orders; (2) the voice of the child, focusing on the when, where, why, and how-to of eliciting the child’s thoughts and feelings; and (3) substance use, misuse, and addiction. The program will include case studies and hypotheticals.
Hon. Ramona A. Gonzalez, La Crosse, WI
Stephanie Tabashneck, PsyD, JD, Wellesley, MA
Alyson Jones, MA, RCC, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Benjamin D. Garber, PhD, Family Law Consulting, PLLC, Nashua, NH
Families with resist-refuse dynamics (RRD) struggle with conflict among family members and sometimes from external sources including legal and behavioral health professionals. This workshop reviews RRD theory and research, a parenting coordinator’s role, and essential elements of the parenting coordination process as described in the 2019 AFCC Guidelines for Parenting Coordination. Parenting coordinators will learn skills to screen for RRD problems; when to withdraw from a case; how to respond to noncompliance with the parenting plan, court orders, and parenting coordination agreements; and, how to coordinate services with behavioral health providers working with the family.
Annette T. Burns, JD, Phoenix, AZ
Debra K. Carter, PhD, National Cooperative Parenting Center, Bradenton, FL
John A. Moran, PhD, Ottawa, ON, Canada
This institute is designed for custody evaluators at all experience levels, and for judges and lawyers whose work involves reviewing the work of evaluators. The presenters will discuss interviewing of litigants, children, and collaterals; maximizing the usefulness of available documents; selection of formal assessment instruments; data integration; report writing; and testifying.
David A. Martindale, PhD, ABPP, St. Petersburg, FL
Arnold T. Shienvold, PhD, Riegler Shienvold & Associations, Harrisburg, PA
The mediation process often includes a complex web of emotions, often beneath the surface, involving both the parties and the mediator. This institute will explore the challenges of working with highly emotional parties and provide participants with the tools to address these difficult issues. Part one will examine how understanding psychological theories and stages of grief can inform and assist in addressing emotions that arise during mediation. Part two will explore the development of parenting plans in the context of high emotion, high conflict, or intimate partner violence. Part three will provide participants with an opportunity to discuss and put into practice the information from the first two segments.
Zena Zumeta, JD, Mediation Training and Consultation Institute, Ann Arbor, MI
Kelly Browe Olson, JD, LLM, UA Little Rock Bowen School of Law, Little Rock, AR
Heidi S. Tuffias, JD, MA, The Law and Mediation Offices of Heidi S. Tuffias, Los Angeles, CA
Resistance and refusal (alienation and estrangement) are built significantly on the emotional intensity and lack of emotional boundaries of high-conflict parents and their upset professionals. This institute will include a review of some brain science of contagious emotions and some established therapeutic principles for the treatment of anxiety. Numerous examples of poorly managed family law cases will be used to highlight problems, including emotional repetition in isolation. Case management recommendations will be provided for judges, lawyers, and therapists to work more positively with parents.
Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, High Conflict Institute, San Diego, CA
Matthew Tower, Author, Love Wars, Berkeley, CA
Though we cannot be together in person, please join us for a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues, and celebrate the contributions of this year’s AFCC Award winners and leadership.
Highlights include the election of new board members, committee reports, and the passing of the gavel to the new AFCC president. This year, AFCC President Larry Fong will pass the gavel to President-Elect Mindy Mitnick.
AFCC will acknowledge the achievements of AFCC members to the field by presenting the following awards: the Meyer Elkin Essay Award, the Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award, the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award, the Tim Salius President’s Award, and the John E. VanDuzer Distinguished Service Award.
An assessment of trauma can illuminate our understanding of the various factors that may be influencing a child’s resistance or refusal to visit a parent. This presentation will distinguish between stressful life events and traumatic events, describe the trauma screening process, and introduce a new clinical assessment to evaluate risks, resilience, and previous treatments and responses. The objective is to determine the most beneficial treatment plan. Methods for evaluating treatment gains will be reviewed, and legal and clinical implications will be discussed.
Robin M. Deutsch, PhD, ABPP, Wellesley, MA
Leslie Drozd, PhD, Newport Beach, CA
Michael Saini, PhD, MSW, Univ. of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
This session will explore how professionals from legal, mental health, coaching, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) disciplines can work together to assist parties in co-parenting, minimizing conflict, and avoiding court. The presentation will focus on effective approaches and practical strategies to enhance clients’ and professionals’ engagement in helpful communication and interventions in family law disputes.
Zachary A. Kretchmer, JD, Kretchmer Family Law, Minneapolis, MN
Mindy Mitnick, EdM, MA, Uptown Mental Health Center, Edina, MN
Lori Thibodeau, MA, LMFT, The Bridging Center, Bloomington, MN
What do inter-parental disputes with resist-refuse dynamics have in common with racial conflict underlying community violence in Minneapolis, Kenosha, and Portland? How do the politics that impact controversial family justice issues mirror the divisiveness and polarization of our greater political culture? Grande Lum served as Director of the US Department of Justice Community Relations Service under President Barack Obama, and oversaw agency responses to Ferguson, as well as the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida, and the Freddie Gray tragedy in Baltimore. He subsequently served as Director of the Divided Community Project at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Mr. Lum will examine approaches for transforming intractable conflict into collaboration, and, through discussion with AFCC Past President Matthew Sullivan, examine parallels and lessons learned for family law professionals.
Grande Lum, JD, Menlo College, Palo Alto, CA
Moderator: Matthew J. Sullivan, PhD, Palo Alto, CA
When a child rejects a parent, it often reflects a troubled family system with many overlapping and complicated issues. This workshop will highlight current psychological research on the cumulative effects of adverse childhood experiences, factors that promote resilience, and the availability of empirically informed interventions. This program will discuss various ways lawyers, judges, and therapists can work together to help ensure that families in crisis receive appropriate interventions sooner rather than later.
Kathleen McNamara, PhD, Fort Collins, CO
Joan McWilliams, JD, MSJA, McWilliams Mediation Group, Denver, CO
For practitioners who work with court-involved families, conflict rarely stays within the confines of the courtroom. This workshop will walk participants through measures to safeguard against common threats, including the development of proper court orders and contracts; responding to intrusive record requests; and how to effectively respond to board action, HIPAA complaints, and other grievances. Samples will be provided for all aspects of handling a high-conflict matter that protects the practitioner and their client’s best interests.
April Harris-Britt, PhD, AHB Center for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Durham, NC
Shelley Brown, JD, Durham, NC
Judicial management of parental opioid use disorder (OUD), relapse, and noncompliance with court orders has been widely debated in family courts. Due to misinformation about the disorder and pervasive stigma, courts often impose conditions and interventions that are unsupported by addiction research. The pressure to intervene is heightened due to the national opioid crisis, but uninformed sanctions can destabilize the parent-child relationship and unwittingly harm families. This presentation will educate judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals about OUD to set realistic expectations and effectively manage litigant relapse. An overview of the neurobiology of addiction to help understand litigant behavior will be presented. Clinical material will illustrate common challenging scenarios with parents with OUD and ways to craft scientifically tenable plans.
Abigail M. Judge, PhD, MGH Substance Use Disorder Bridge Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Stephanie Tabashneck, PsyD, JD, Wellesley, MA
This presentation aims to enhance access to justice for LGBTQ victims of domestic abuse by helping to build empathy and understanding for how LGBTQ victims experience domestic abuse in the digital and physical worlds. The presenters will explore what it means to come of age against the backdrop of legal and social stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people, how that experience informs their choices, and how those choices often make them especially vulnerable to abuse and harassment.
Hon. Lorenzo Edwards, Family Court Commissioner, Milwaukee, WI
Matthew K. Lewis, Pathways for Public Allies, Milwaukee, WI
The work of the family law practitioner, while often rewarding, is also quite taxing, emotionally and intellectually. This program examines the work of the family law practitioner through the lenses of interpersonal neurobiology, systems theory, and professional ethics to develop a deeper understanding of what we each bring to this work, why we do it, and how to develop and maintain emotionally intelligent practices.
Jennifer E. Joseph, JD, Saint Paul, MN
Nancy Ver Steegh, JD, MSW, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Saint Paul, MN
Kirsten Lysne, PhD, Moxie, Inc., Plymouth, MN
This workshop will delve into the ethical considerations that lawyers face when representing parents in resist-refuse cases where ethics of zealous advocacy are seemingly contrary to a child’s best interest or the long-term goals of a parent. A mental health professional will discuss the necessity of lawyers, who are typically the first to see these cases, to recognize the resist-refuse dynamic and work to create a team with the lawyer and client to work for the betterment of the family.
Louise T. Truax, JD, Reich & Truax, PLLC, Southport, CT
Hon. Marjorie Slabach (Ret.), Fremont, CA
Shawn McCall, PsyD, JD, San Francisco, CA
This workshop will focus on severe cases of resist-refuse dynamics in the aftermath of court proceedings resulting in one of three scenarios: (1) an order for custody change; (2) an order stipulating parenting time with each parent, often with a measure of therapeutic intervention; or (3) an order granting the status quo with restricted time, no time, or restricted communication with the rejected parent. Vignettes illustrating these circumstances will explore the time to say goodbye, its clinical significance, and legal considerations for corresponding court orders. A protocol for saying goodbye will be proposed.
Linda Popielarczyk, MSW, AccFM, Toronto, ON, Canada
Hon. Tom Altobelli, Family Court of Australia, Wollongong, NSW, Australia
Barbara Jo Fidler, PhD, AccFM, Toronto, ON, Canada
The adversarial process pits one parent against another instead of focusing on the welfare of the family. In this workshop, presenters will discuss how collaborative practice is designed to keep the welfare of the children at the forefront of the process and helps parents create a positive legacy for their children. Presenters from Singapore, Canada, and the US will bring their unique perspectives to the discussion.
Adam Cordover, JD, Family Diplomacy, Tampa, FL
Brian Galbraith, LLB, LLM, Galbraith Family Law, Barrie, ON, Canada
Kevin Scudder, JD, Law Offices of Kevin Scudder, Seattle, WA
Rajan Chettiar, Practice Forte Advisory, Singapore, Republic of Singapore
Children often refuse to return to a parent who has not been identified as abusive. Allegations of child abuse that arise in the context of custody cases are extremely difficult for professionals and the courts to manage. Both parents often act in ways that are counterintuitive, making it difficult to determine what actually occurred. Hidden biases and/or knowledge deficits distort perceptions of the complaining parent’s claims may lead to discounting the veracity of the abuse report. This session will help participants address these challenges.
Seth Goldstein, JD, Law Offices of Seth Goldstein, Monterey, CA
Lawrence Jay Braunstein, JD, Braunstein and Zuckerman, White Plains, NY
Discussions about money—values, practices, and conflicts—present enormous challenges to co-parenting counselors and mediators. This session explores the conscious and subconscious economic and behavioral factors related to money that make mediators weep and co-parenting counselors pull their hair out.
Simone A. Haberstock, JD, LLM, Saint Louis, MO
Kevin J. Chafin, MA, LPC, Kansas City, MO
With the intensification of appeals to resist the simplicity of single-factor theories to define and treat children’s resistance and refusal dynamics, professionals are challenged with the task of developing an inclusive approach to consider the key components of effective responses for children and their families across these varied and complex cases. This multidisciplinary panel will discuss the range of perspectives and approaches for intervening. With the intent of developing a collaborative model of practice, presenters will discuss both legal and clinical responses across the varied possibilities of resistance and refusal, ranging from severe alienation, intimate partner violence, child sexual abuse, and normal parental separation adjustment.
Nicholas Bala, JD, LLM, Queens Univ., Kingston, ON, Canada
Hon. Linda Fidnick, Hampshire Probate and Family Court, Northampton, MA
Loretta Frederick, JD, Battered Women’s Justice Project, Winona, MN
Leslie Drozd, PhD, Newport Beach, CA
Moderator: Michael Saini, PhD, MSW, Univ. of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
RIFT (Reportable Intensive Family Therapy) is a single practitioner model of intensive family therapy over four days for complex family dynamics, including where children are resistant to relationships with one parent. This practical workshop will involve discussion of behavioral parent therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure and response prevention therapy with children. The session will emphasize keeping both parents involved in children’s lives; rejection of the either/or parent litigation model of dealing with alienation; emphasis on reportable nonconfidential therapy; practical advice, such as how to get resistant children together with rejected parents; mapping strategies on the idiosyncratic needs of each family; and ongoing case management.
Jennifer Neoh, PsyD, Rosanna, VIC, Australia
Stepfamilies differ wildly in their composition and their developmental process is highly impacted by the new couple’s empathic attunement to the children, their ability to develop realistic role expectations, and the children’s ages and stages. Misguided steps to “blend” too soon may lead to marital discord, parent-child conflict, and rejection of a stepparent. Hostile exes also exploit these vulnerabilities and parenting time refusal might ensue. Join this session to examine how to manage these and other challenges.
Leslie Todd, MA, LCSW, Strategies for Change, Baton Rouge, LA
Ann Ordway, JD, PhD, Univ. of Phoenix, Gilbert, AZ
A multifactorial approach can help identify the factors hindering a parent child reunification process. Families and professionals need guidance and solution-focused models to resolve entrenched conflicts and focus on the best interest of the child. Clinical vignettes will show devastating outcomes when professionals are feeding the rage and revenge, overidentifying with their client, or losing necessary distance to best advise them. Promising outcomes in cases where a child rejects a parent will illustrate the merits of a well-coordinated interdisciplinary psycho-judicial team working with these cases.
Francine Cyr, PhD, Univ. de Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
Sophie Gauthier, AdE, Verdun Avocats, Quebec, QC, Canada
Karine Poitras, PhD, Univ. du Quebec, Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada
The Marin County, California, Superior Court’s Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference Program has had tremendous success resolving child custody disputes. The “frequent flyers” who regularly come to court to fight the latest battle in their ongoing parental war have, by and large, stopped coming. This workshop will present the brightest gems of what we have learned in the program’s twelve-year history, which will be useful for all who participate in judicial settlement conferences involving child custody, whether interdisciplinary or otherwise.
Stephen H. Sulmeyer, JD, PhD, JAMS, San Francisco, CA
Hon. Beverly Wood, Marin County Superior Court, San Rafael, CA
While domestic violence is perpetrated by and against all genders, women are most often the victims. Despite best efforts, parental trauma “leaks” onto children, causing resist-refuse to follow domestic abuse allegations. Decision makers, including judges and evaluators, must analyze the respective parents’ responsibility for the children’s resistance to make appropriate recommendations. This workshop will help professionals differentiate and respond to domestic abuse, anxiety, and alienating behaviors.
Deb Link, MA, Ascend Family Institute, Bloomington, MN
Sara Zafar, JD, Wichita State Univ., Wichita, KS
There are more litigants in our courts without lawyers than with them, and jurisdictions have taken myriad approaches to address access to justice. This session will examine the Oregon Informal Domestic Relations Trial, the Ontario Family Law Limited Scope Services Project, and other initiatives. Presenters will discuss what can be adapted to make the system more affordable and useful for self-represented litigants and demonstrate how coaching can be as powerful an offering as unbundled legal services.
Joel Miller, LLB, The Family Law Coach, Toronto, ON, Canada
William J. Howe III, JD, Gevurtz Menashe, Portland, OR
Janet Whitehead, LLB, AccFM, Whitehead Law & Mediation, Sarnia, ON, Canada
What is the correct balance between understanding causes and resolving problems? Are they mutually exclusive? While safety issues must always be addressed, treatment models are available that are trauma-sensitive and focused on improving dysfunctional behavior without premature assumptions about cause. This panel will discuss common obstacles and practical strategies for early, prudent intervention with resist-refuse dynamics including the critical role of the court, appropriate intervention models, obtaining effective orders, challenges to current thinking, and essential interdisciplinary steps.
Lyn R. Greenberg, PhD, ABPP, Los Angeles, CA
Hon. Robert A. Schnider (Ret.), Los Angeles, CA
Hon. Joe Harman, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Parramatta, NSW, Australia
Elizabeth M. Picker, Barrister, FDRP, Edmund Barton Chambers, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Family law professionals understand that offenders use whatever means available to abuse, harass, stalk, and monitor victims. Technology now provides offenders with tools to accomplish these tasks and much more. Participants will explore the risks and benefits of technology and will learn strategies for cases involving phone technology, location apps, social media, and more. Non-technical language will be used to describe the privacy levels of each area and how to safely navigate the world of technology.
Steven Bradley, OurFamilyWizard.com, Tallahassee, FL
“Best interests of the child” and “voice of the child” are concepts used by different professionals in resolving custody issues. How these concepts are viewed and used can significantly impact the parent-child relationship. A panel of experts will discuss the meanings and uses of these two concepts, and the relationship between them, from the perspective of the family court judge, best interest attorney, mediator, and mental health professional. Participants will consider how best interest factors may impact both the needs and the voice of minor children.
Mary Atwater, PsyD, Collaborative Mediation Services, Bethesda, MD
Hon. Cynthia Callahan, Montgomery County Circuit Court, Rockville, MD
Hon. Ann Sundt, The McCammon Group, Garret Park, MD
Hadrian Hatfield, JD, Shulman Rodgers, Potomac, MD
This workshop will discuss the difficulties encountered in implementing intensive family interventions for families characterized by high-conflict divorce in which a child refuses or resists contact with a parent. Along with a discussion of the roles played by the family members, the legal system, and outside consultants, there will be a discussion of the liability involved in implementing intensive family interventions. Suggestions regarding how best to address these concerns will be discussed.
Marcy A. Pasternak, PhD, Watchung, NJ
Sharon Ryan Montgomery, PsyD, Morristown, NJ
Rebecca Bailey, PhD, Transitioning Families, Glen Ellen, CA
Developmental issues and the application of research to assessing children is important in cases where children witness family events, are alleged victims of abuse, and/or have been exposed to conflict, pressure, and manipulation. This presentation will review linguistic and cognitive development research and forensic literature on children’s memory functioning and on reliably interviewing children. Assessment aids in understanding the impact of family events, identifying best interest factors, and assessing a child’s maturity.
Margaret Lee, PhD, Mill Valley, CA
Ginger Calloway, PhD, Raleigh, NC
Rarely in cases involving resist-refuse dynamics is the fact that a child is resisting or refusing disputed. Instead, it is the reason for the resistance or refusal and the options available to address it that are in dispute. This panel will identify information necessary for courts to ascertain the cause for the resistance and how to obtain that information through interviews with the children and parents. Attendees will be provided with options for addressing that resistance. Presenters will also explore the difficulties that can arise for legal practitioners, mental health professionals, and the court if the conclusion is reached that the child’s resistance or refusal is justified.
Holly M. Friedland, JD, Shauger & Friedland LLC, Florham Park, NJ
David A. Martindale, PhD, ABPP, St. Petersburg, FL
Hon. Dianna Gould-Saltman, Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles, CA
Tamsen Thorpe, PhD, Morristown, NJ
This presentation focuses on the connection between court orders and the roles and responsibilities of clinicians assisting the rejected parent and child. The presenters will provide examples of court orders that may be adapted to state family courts, present tips and traps when working with lawyers or self-represented litigants, and discuss the importance of precise orders that reduce the risk of alliances and ethical violations.
Jeffrey S. Levy, MSW, Saco, ME
Dana Prescott, PhD, JD, Saco, ME
Diane Tennies, PhD, LADC, Bangor, ME
This workshop considers the state of shared parenting by reviewing current presumptions of child custody decision-making in jurisdictions that include domestic violence in their presumptions and those that do not. Parental rights versus safety and security will be debated through recent proposed amendments to divorce legislation, the impact of shared parenting on women and young children, and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Beth Archer-Kuhn, PhD, MSW, Univ. of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Natalie Beltrano, MSW, Univ. of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada