I recently attended the 50th Anniversary Conference of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). AFCC was founded in 1963, and now consists of more than 4,600 members, representing 49 states and 27 countries worldwide. Members include judges, court employees, private practice lawyers, mental health and dispute resolution professionals, policy advocates, policymakers, researchers, community agencies, academics and students. The association's work focuses on a wide range of topics of interest to a family law attorney such as mediation, custody evaluation, parent education, and parenting coordination. For the past 50 years, AFCC has been the leading interdisciplinary organization addressing the challenges of separation and divorce, and, in particular, the impact on children and families. I returned from this year's annual conference in Los Angeles with a wealth of information.
In a recent custody case we litigated in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, a case in which the parties' minor child is a smart, articulate, athletic and very talented 11-year-old boy, an excellent resource published by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts ("AFCC") called "Planning for Shared Parenting: A guide for Parents Living Apart" became a vital guide for the parties in formulating an effective parenting plan that both parties agreed is in their pre-teen's best interests. Formulating pre-teen parenting plans can be quite challenging. This particular AFCC guide articulates a number of important issues that the parties to a custody case should consider. Probate and Family Court judges often refer to the resource, so it is also something that should be considered in anticipating a possible judgment after a full-blown trial. This advance knowledge certainly helps settle cases, and in turn, reduces the overall cost of litigation.
According to the Guidelines for Parenting Coordination developed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Task Force on Parenting Coordination, "[P]arenting coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children's needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract."
I recently attended the 49th Annual Conference of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts in Chicago. The conference was entitled Attachment, Brain Science and Children of Divorce: The ABCDs of Child Development for Family Law. In addition to seminars focused on the role of Parenting Coordinators in resolving disputes between parents in high-conflict custody cases, there were presentations on attachment theory, and how developments in social science help us formulate appropriate parenting plans, especially in cases involving infants and toddlers.