2016 AFCC-O Conference

The AFCC-O held their Eighth Annual Conference,
“Navigating the Steps to Family Resolutions: New Directions in a State of Uncertainty”
and Pre-conference events on October 20th and 21st, 2016

October 20, 2016 Pre-Conference Events:

On October 20th, the New Professionals Group, chaired by Ms. Jaclyn Mackenzie, hosted an event where a panel explored strategies for dealing with mental health challenges in family and child protection cases.  The panel included Justice Anthony William J. Sullivan of the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton; Dr. Dan Ashbourne, Psychologist and Executive Director of the London Family Court Clinic; and Paula McGirr, Senior Counsel, Legal Aid Ontario; with Margaretta Hall, a family law lawyer from Toronto as the moderator. The event was well attended by lawyers and mental health professionals. Issues discussed included what needs to be established in assessing the capacity of a client, how to involve the Public Guardian and Trustee, how the mental health professional becomes involved in the process of capacity assessment, the importance of due process and the utility of parenting capacity assessments and alternative dispute resolution processes in these situations.

Following the New Professionals Group event, the auditorium at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto was filled to capacity as the Pre-Conference Institute got underway. At the Institute, Dr. Irwin Butkowsky was cross-examined by two senior and experienced family law lawyers, Harold Niman and Patrick Schmidt.  The Honourable Justice Heather McGee and the Honourable Justice Debra Paulseth presided to keep order in the Court! The exercise – based on an actual case – highlighted issues such as the order in which a s. 30 CLRA assessor should be called to testify (the end of the trial was preferred), the difference between a clinical and forensic assessment, how the integrity of the Court can be protected, the disclosure counsel requires to properly cross-examine the assessor, the difference between lay opinion and expert opinion, and how the passing of time might affect the weight given to an assessor’s opinions. Whether you were a ‘new’ professional or an ‘old’ one, there was something to be learned by all.

The annual social and networking event took place in the evening at the Spring Rolls Restaurant. This event provided a wonderful opportunity for family law and mental health professionals to mingle and connect with friends and colleagues and make new connections in an informal setting, along with some delicious hors d’oeuvres.

October 21, 2016 AGM and Eighth Annual Conference:

 “Navigating the Steps to Family Resolutions: New Directions in a State of Uncertainty”

Friday’s conference commenced with the Annual General Meeting. Our new President, Justice Gerri Lynn Wong, is joined by Dr. Dan Ashbourne as President Elect, Dr. Jay McGrory as Vice President, Andrea Himel as Past President & Secretary and Shely Polak as Treasurer. Our Directors also include Justice Allan Rowsell, Justice Philip Clay, Seema Jain and Linda Popielarczyk. We also welcomed our new Board members: Justice Lene Madsen, Brian Burke, Maxine Kerr, Nicholas Bala and Michelle Hayes. We bid farewell to Rachel Birnbaum, Steven Benmor, Karla McGrath and Linda Feldman. Thank you for your time and commitment in volunteering to our Board!

The keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Robin Deutsch, the Director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law at William James College and formerly an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Deutsch is a child and family forensic psychologist, mediator, parenting coordinator, and is board certified in couple and family psychology. She is a founder of Overcoming Barriers, an organization that provides family-centered services for families in conflict. She is a past president of the Massachusetts chapter of AFCC, and a past president of AFCC.

In an engaging and informative presentation, Dr. Deutsch reviewed strategic responses to challenging clients through a review of personality disorders clients might present with, and the interplay between the characteristics that are likely to present themselves with each disorder and the litigation process. Dr. Deutsch had concrete and helpful suggestions for front line mental health professionals, lawyers and judges as to how to deal with clients and parties presenting with these disorders, and the types of conditions that might be placed on their interaction with co-parents and their children.

Several awards were presented to worthy recipients. Dr. Peter Jaffe was the recipient of The Honourable Justice Geraldine Waldman Award for Excellence in the Intersection of Family Law and Criminal Law Relating to Domestic Violence, and Antoinette Clarke was the recipient of The Lorraine Martin Award for Excellence in Dispute Resolution. The recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Service/Presidents Award was Jennifer Suzor. The Nicholas Bala Award for Excellence in Children and Family Law was presented to Shely Polak. For more information about these awards and the recipients please visit our Awards webpage.

 Justice Frances Kiteley, Alfred Mamo and Linda Chodos then reviewed the case law and provided practical advice to respond to the tension when  parents ask for more parenting time with their children v. the potential impact on their child support obligations. A case scenario was used to demonstrate how polarizing these requests can be, and how a catalyst of conflict is often the consequence of these applications. Justice Kiteley reminded us that the phrase “40% rule” is a misnomer. It is not a “rule” – the factors under s. 9 of the Child Support Guidelines must be satisfied before any adjustment to the support obligation will be made.

The balance of the conference was a series of workshops on such relevant topics as the ethical issues when we are retained by difficult clients, new approaches incorporating the child’s views and preferences, parental estrangement and a presentation on AFCC-O’s newest research initiative on supervised access. For more information on the supervised access research paper, please visit our Research & Policy webpage.

Our program concluded with an entertaining review by Philip Epstein of recent and important child related cases.

Visit our Awards webpage to read more information about our 2016 award recipients for the following awards:

  • The Honourable Geraldine Waldman Award for Excellence in the Intersection of Family Law and Criminal Law Relating to Domestic Violence
  • The Lorraine Martin Award for Excellence in Dispute Resolution during the Conference Lunch!
  • The AFCC-O Distinguished Service/Presidents Award
  • The Nicholas Bala Award for Excellence in Children & Family Law

October 20, 2017 is AFCC-O's Ninth Annual Conference!!



The LSUC Approved Our Conference Events for CPD Credits:

October 20, 2016:

Pre-Conference Institute – 1 hour Professionalism Content; and 2 hours of Substantive Content

The New Professionals Program – 1 hour and 15 minutes of Substantive Content

October 21, 2016 (full day attendance only):
Navigating the Steps to Family Resolutions: New Directions in a State of Uncertainty – 1 hour and 50 minutes of Professionalism Content; and 3 hours and 45 minutes of Substantive Content.

AFCC is also approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for Psychologists.  This program has been approved for 5.5 hours.

Special Thanks to our 2016 Conference Sponsors!




CONFERENCE SUPPORTERS: Divorce Mate Software Inc., and Dani Z. Frodis Barristers