Research & Policy


Court-Based Mediation Services In Ontario: An Evaluation of Participation, Success and Best Practices, is underway. The project results  will be presented at the AFCC-O Conference on October 20, 2017!

The AFCC is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. AFCC members share a strong commitment to education, innovation and collaboration in order to benefit communities, empower families, and promote a healthy future for children.

Our vision is a justice system in which all professionals work collaboratively through education, support and access to services to achieve the best possible outcome for children and families.

AFCC-O continues to initiate and participate in important research, and hold symposiums to identify changes and new initiatives that will be beneficial to Ontario families.


Court-Based Mediation Services in Ontario:
An Evaluation of Participation,  Success and Best Practices

Description of Project:

Mediation has been available at the Family Court of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for 20 years, and in all family courts in Ontario since 2011. Mediation service providers, funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General, are available onsite for parties who have matters before the court, free of charge. Mediation is also available offsite for more complex issues, or for issues that cannot be fully addressed on the day of court; these services are at a cost to the client, on a sliding scale. Legal Aid Ontario also provides mediation services to financially eligible clients in some Greater Toronto Area courthouses, as well as offsite facilitated settlement conferences elsewhere in the province where both parties have Legal Aid Certificates.

The spectrum of available publicly funded or subsidized mediation services varies significantly among court locations, as does the range of subject matters covered by each mediation service.   There are also private mediation services available at many locales.

With province-wide availability of mediation completing its fifth year, 2017 presents a timely opportunity to look at Ontario’s array of mediation programs and services, with a particular focus on uptake, success rates, and ways to improve process, outcomes, and consistency.

Different mediation services are provided in different locations in Ontario. As set out in greater detail below, this research seeks answers to the following questions:

  • What mediation services are provided at various Ontario Courts?
  • How are the services provided similar and different from one another?
  • What improvements can be made so that the mediation services can achieve greater success (in terms of number of cases, client satisfaction and resolution)?

Download AFCC-O Court Based Mediation Services RFP Jan-17 to view the requirements of this research project.

Deadline for submissions: February 24, 2017

Project Start Date: March 15, 2017

Project Completion Date: October 2, 2017

Amount of RFP: $10,000 (plus HST if applicable)

AFCC-O 2016 Research Project

Supervised Access as a Stepping Stone Rather than a Destination: A Qualitative Review of the Interventions Services and Programs that May Assist Families to Transition Away from Supervised Access.

Description of Project:
Supervised access is an important service for families involved in family disputes. Generally, supervised access may be necessary when there are concerns about domestic violence, poor parenting, alcohol and/or drug problems, and when a parent has little to no relationship with their child. Supervision of visitation can play a critical role in maintaining the relationship between children and their parents and helps to provide independent information that can be used for court purposes. However, without an assessment by a mental health professional (which is typically cost and/or time prohibitive), in addition to the supervision, it is difficult to assess parent-child relationships and/or parental behaviours. Consequently, parents may be left in supervised access longer than necessary.

Recent research identifies the reasons why supervised visitation is ordered. However, once supervision is court-ordered there are no clear guidelines for its reduction or elimination. The use of complementary services (i.e., parenting education, anger management, etc.) within the supervision setting to address the issues that led to a family’s difficulties needs to be better identified. Issues such as staff training, standardization of service delivery and decisions on how to transition out of supervised settings all need further investigation.

VIEW the “Supervised Access as a Stepping Stone Rather than a Destination” research paper by Nicholas Bala, Michael Saini and Sarah Spitz.

AFCC-O Symposium: “The Intersection of Domestic Family Law Cases and the Child Welfare System”

On November 25, 2016, the AFCC-O hosted a family justice symposium, entitled the “Intersection of Domestic Family Law Cases and the Child Welfare System”. The AFCC-O symposium was designed to build on the recent research conducted by Claire Houston and Professor Nick Bala (see “The Challenge of High Conflict Family Cases Involving a Child Protection Agency: A Review of Literature and an Analysis of Reported Ontario Cases“, and “Child Welfare and Family Justice Suggestions for Good Practices” research papers below) with the goals of developing strategies, better practices and next steps to improve how custody and access cases that intersect with child protection system are identified and managed. The full-day program also explored how Children’s Aid Societies across Ontario may improve on service delivery in cases involving high conflict custody disputes. Over forty-five professionals attended the symposium, including: legal and policy advisors from the Ontario government and Legal Aid Ontario, community and legal organizations, lawyers and child protection workers/supervisors from Children’s Aid Societies, judges, mediators, parents’ and children’s counsel, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, mental health professionals, assessors and members of the AFCC-O Board of Directors. Please refer to the below documents available for download that provide details of what discussions took place at our symposium, and a summary article which includes recommendations for improvements:

Symposium Summary Notes

AFCC-O Symposium Summary & Recommendations

AFCC-O Policy Committee Environmental Scan

AFCC-O commenced an environmental scan of Ontario government agencies and non-profit organizations to better understand their policy initiatives as well as the gaps identified in the family law system. As set out below, the AFCC-O utilized the data collected from this project to create the updated Ideal Family Court Initiative (November 2014).

AFCC-O sent requests to participate in our environmental scan to the following Ontario Government agencies and non-profit organizations

AFCC O Policy Committee Letter

Responses provided by Ontario Government agencies and non-profit organizations


Information on the updated Ideal Family Court Initiative (November 2014):

In early 2010, AFCC Ontario called a meeting of its membership to develop a policy statement for the Ideal Family Court in Ontario. Two meetings were held with over 15-20 members from different disciplines sharing and exchanging ideas.

In November 2014, the AFCC-O updated the Ideal Family Court Initiative following our Environmental Scan, and a review of other government and academic publications. We attach our updated policy statement entitled the “Ideal Family Court (November 2014)”, along with the list of organizations that support each of the initiatives (see the link below). Please let us know what your thoughts are about it.


AFCC-O hosted a one day interdisciplinary colloquium to discuss Family Court Policy on November 15, 2013.  This provided an opportunity for leaders in the family court arena to meet and discuss trends for family courts and possible future steps

AFCC-O Family Justice Reform Colloquium Summary



AFCC-O commissioned the following research papers:

Crossover Youth: Improving Ontario’s Responses, By Nicholas Bala , Rebecca De Filippis & Katie Hunter

Reforming the Family Justice System: An Evidence-Based Approach, By Noel Semple & Nicholas Bala

Results of Part I – Literature Review/Caselaw Review of the Intersection of Custody/Access Cases and the Child Welfare System

The Challenge of High Conflict Family Cases Involving a Child Protection Agency: A Review of Literature and an Analysis of Reported Ontario Cases – By Claire Houston and Nicholas Bala, February 17, 2015

Part II – Qualitative Research into the Intersection of Custody/Access Cases and the Child Welfare System

Increasingly, custody/access cases are colliding with the child welfare system, with children being found in need of protection as a result of parental separation involving high-conflict, and accusations of child protection concerns about each parent, etc. Part I of this research project explored the social science and legal literature, including case law in the last five years detailing the intersection between these two systems. Part II of this research involved qualitative interviews with child welfare professionals including front line and managers, as well as justice professionals in the court system about how the courts respond to the intersection between family and child welfare.

Ms. Houston and Prof. Bala have completed phase II of this study which involved a series of interviews with key informants, and recommendations for best practices for these cases.

Child Welfare and Family Justice Suggestions for Good Practices-Houston & Bala May 2-16