2017 AFCC-O Conference

On October 19 and 20th, 2017

The AFCC-O held their Pre-conference Events and Ninth Annual Conference,

Breaking Down Barriers: Targeting Resources to Meet Families’ Needs

The AFCC-O conference, Breaking Down Barriers: Targeting Resources to Meet Families’ Needs provided family law professionals with insight into how family law has evolved and how family law professionals can modify their practice to meet their clients’ needs. The AFCC-O would like to extend its thanks to all of the speakers, volunteers and attendees who made the conference a success.

In addition to the annual conference, the AFCC-O held its annual New Professionals Event and Pre-Conference Institute on October 19, 2017.  Below is a recap of our conference events.

New Professionals Event and Pre-conference Institute

Advice from the Bench

Panel: Justice Roselyn Zisman, Justice Victoria Starr, Justice Kendra Coats, and Justice Allan Rowsell

Attendees had the opportunity to hear advocacy advice straight from the bench. The panel stressed that an effective advocate is brief, organized, prepared to cite authorities, and prepared to answer questions. The judges provided the audience with a nuanced guide to courtroom advocacy; the panel discussed advocacy techniques in a variety of settings, from case conference to trials.

Addictions in the Family Break Down: The Challenges and Complexities

Panel members: Dr. Leslie Buckley, Lana Robson, Lisa Pont, Justice Ellen Murray, Howard Hurwitz, Carolyn Leach

This panel consisted of professionals who work with individuals dealing with addiction and their families. The panel explained the physiology of addiction and recovery. The panel stressed that family law professionals should always consider how a client’s addiction impacts the client’s family members – as often family members develop their own addictions or anti-social behaviours to cope with the client’s addictions – which in turn can contribute to underlying family dysfunction. The panel stated that if a child has an addiction, it is crucial that all of the child’s family members are on the same page with respect to treatment and monitoring.

AFCC-O Annual Conference

On October 20, 2017, the AFCC-O held its 9th annual conference, Breaking Down Barriers: Targeting Resources to Meet Families’ Needs. The conference focused on the challenges family law professionals face when serving clients with limited resources. The conference welcomed a wide range of presenters, all of whom explored the issue of how family law professionals can (or should) adapt to meet their clients’ needs and expectations.

Cadillac vs. Chevy: How Do We Balance the Push and Pull of Limited Resources?

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Arnold Shienvold

Arnold Shienvold is a psychologist based out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA. Dr. Shienvold conducts private parenting assessments as part of his practice. His talk focused on the “Cadillac vs. Chevy” dilemma faced by many professionals who work in family law. Dr. Shienvold informed the audience that a “Cadillac” parenting assessment can cost between $10,000 – $25,000. With that kind of price tag, families look for less expensive, streamlined, “Chevy” models of parenting assessments. However, Dr. Shienvold noted that, unfortunately, the “Chevy” parenting assessments may not contain sufficient information to get the client the result they want.

Dr. Shienvold proposed that family law professionals should scrutinize the purpose and effectiveness of parenting assessments before asking clients to choose between “Chevy” and “Cadillac” models. Instead, clients should choose which dispute resolution pathway (or “dealership”) is best for their situation. The client can then determine what “model” of service is appropriate to get the results they want.

Relocation Update

Panel: Rollie Thompson, Justice Susanne Goodman, Elizabeth McCarty, Arnold Shienvold

This panel provided an update on mobility cases and how lawyers can better represent their clients. Justice Goodman advised that many parties underestimate the amount of evidence that is required to prove a mobility case, as parties need to meet both the test for material change and the best interest of the child. Beth McCarty from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer suggested that children have mature perspectives about relocation and that children can be engaged in meaningful dialogue about mobility issues.

Parenting Coordination: Serving Families or Fueling the Fire?

Panel: Dr. Irwin Butkowsky, Dr. Barbara Fidler, Dr. Arnold Shienvold and Philip Epstein

The panel stressed that not all families are suitable for parenting coordination and that parenting coordinators need to carefully screen clients before accepting a retainer. While some factors, such as domestic violence, are obvious indicators that a client is unsuitable for parenting coordination, other factors may be subtler. For example, parenting coordinators should be wary of clients who use parenting coordination to bring up previously litigated issues. Dr. Barbara Fidler suggested that the best way to improve the parenting coordination process is to make sure that parents create a detailed parenting plan before retaining the services of a parenting coordinator.

Advocacy, Assessment and ADR in Cases Affected by Intimate Partner Violence

Panel: Pamela Cross and Justice Jennifer McKinnon

Pamela Cross and Justice McKinnon challenged the audience to reconsider their previously held assumptions about what constitutes Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and how IPV impacts a survivor’s ability to engage with the legal system. Ms. Cross stated that IPV can take on many forms; however, the type of abuse that most interferes with a survivor’s ability to engage in the legal system is coercive control. Ms. Cross stated that ADR can be used in cases with IPV and that litigation can be more harmful than ADR because it provides the abuser with another platform for abuse. Justice McKinnon discussed how survivors of IPV are starting to seek damages for the abuse and discussed the case law emerging in that area.

Later in the afternoon attendees had the option to attend two breakout sessions:

First Session Options:

(a) Forward thinking on “intersection” cases (when the custody/access and child protection systems collide); or

(b) Best practices in advocacy, assessment and ADR in cases affected by intimate partner violence.

Second Session Options:

(a) Gender identity in family law disputes; or

(b) Lessons learned from the 2017 AFCC-Ontario Research Project, Court-Based Mediation Services in Ontario: An Evaluation of Participation, Success and Best Practices.

The day ended with two knowledgeable hosts who provided insight into this year’s important child-related cases, Philip Epstein and Justice Stanley Sherr; as always an informative, punchy, and humorous way to conclude our annual conference.

The Law Society approved this program for CPD credits as follows:

1 Professionalism Hour, plus an additional 0.5 Professionalism Hour for the plenary session entitled “Advocacy, Assessment and ADR in Cases Affected by Domestic Violence”.

Lawyers and paralegals determine for themselves whether an activity is an eligible educational activity for CPD and qualifies for Substantive Hours. This program may include up to 5.5 Substantive Hours.

The American Psychological Association approved our program for 9.25 hours of continuing education credits for psychologists.

Save These Dates!!

 October 18 & 19, 2018

We hope you will join us at our

10th Year Anniversary Celebration and

Annual Conference


Visit our Awards webpage to read more information about our 2017 award recipients for the following two awards:

The AFCC-O President’s Distinguished Service Award


The Nicholas Bala Award for Student Excellence


2017 Gold Sponsors

2017 Silver Sponsors

2017 Bronze Sponsors

Conference Supporters

DivorceMate Software, Barry Nussbaum, Our Family Wizard