The AFCC conference provided a multi-disciplinary setting in which judges, lawyers, mediators, researchers and mental health professionals shared insights into the resolution of family conflicts. A wide range of family law-related topics were discussed including parenting time, child support, and parenting during separation and divorce. Also discussed were legislative and policy initiatives, recent and developing research findings, professional practices and models, and most important, methods of resolving conflicts between family members.
The theme of the conference, Turning the Kaleidoscope of Family Conflict into a Prism of Harmony, emphasized new forms of conflict resolution that have emerged over the last several decades. Nearly 100 individual sessions conducted over the span of the entire conference focused on this theme. The goal of the conference was to enhance participants’ knowledge while encouraging respectful discussions and debates. The special judges’ program, chaired by the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court, focused on judicial settlement and procedural innovations. The session provided Canadian judicial participants with a unique opportunity to network, learn, discuss and compare procedures and approaches used in other jurisdictions.
The conference focused on high conflict family issues resulting from the changing needs of our society and the Courts’ needs to recognize and be sensitive to these issues. The educational basis of this conference used sound design principles, including the integration of social context, cutting-edge research, knowledge and skills. The conference offered a wide range of sessions highlighting different types of research, advocacy positions, policies, practices, programs, procedures, and ideas. Some programs included an evidence-based approach while others focused on works in progress, emerging practices, and policy initiatives. The “Judicial Officers Forum” enabled judicial participants to meet in a unique, closed setting to discuss issues in a frank manner and share ideas.
The conference provided information to participants regarding the need to be aware of social science findings and new developments linked to family law. It also covered family law practice and legislative developments in other jurisdictions. Court services offered to families from the legal, mental health and dispute resolution perspectives were also explored. The curriculum design included, but was not limited to: Parent-Child Contact Problems in the Court System; Family Conflict and Intimate Partner Violence; Gender Issues and Power Imbalances; Getting to “Yes” in Conflict; Social Challenges in Custody, along with many more.