Washington Chapter Seminars

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Seminars and Conferences     

A primary function of WA AFCC is to provide annual educational conferences and membership meetings. Networking opportunities and task force activities will be part of this process along with giving those in attendance valuable Continuing Education credits (CLE, CME hours). Additional training events will be scheduled at various locations throughout the year. Check back often for updates to the training schedule. 

To view details of past conferences, link here




We recently held our Fifth Annual WA AFCC Conference, Saturday March 7th.

Shared Parenting Predicaments: Washington's Policy and Practice Concerns



Plenary sessions were held with several top experts in the field.  Among these notable presenters were attorney J. Herbie DiFonzo, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Law at Hofstra University and author of two books including Beneath the Fault Line: The Popular and Legal Culture of Divorce in 20th Century America. He is the co-reporter and editor of the AFCC special issue on Shared Parenting which emerged from the AFCC Think Tank (Family Court Review, April 2014). He spoke on the topic of Shared Parenting: Research, Policy and Practice.

Plenary Session I:  Shared Parenting in the 21st Century: How Law and Culture Shape Child Custody      (8:45-10:15   1.5 hr)

In this lecture, Professor DiFonzo will focus on the most significant — and disturbing — development in child custody determinations in a generation. The formally gender-neutral “best interests” standard is under attack across the United States, triggered by a father’s rights movement calling for a presumptive 50-50 division of child custody upon divorce. Bills have been introduced in many state legislatures that would replace the individualized child custody decision with a mathematical formula. Professor DiFonzo will discuss the problem and propose a solution drawn from the increasing use of “parenting plans” devised by the divo  rcing parents themselves. These homemade custody resolutions, frequently constructed with the help of mediation and other techniques to avoid litigation, provide methods for sharing custody more in keeping with child development findings in psychology and less likely to lead to further litigation.

 Learning Objectives: Attendees will learn –

a. How the history of child custody affects the current policy debate and legal choices

b. Understanding the interplay between the "best interest" standard and legal presumptions

c. Parenting Plans—what they are and how they can change the culture of divorce, nationwide and in Washington State

J. Herbie DiFonzo, J.D., Ph.D. is a professor of law who has taught at Hofstra University since 1995. He serves on the faculty of the Maurice A. Deane School of Law. He was born in Buenos Aires and raised in New York City. Professor DiFonzo received a JD, PhD and an MA from the University of Virginia. He served for six years as a federal prosecutor, followed by another decade of law practice (family, civil, and criminal) before becoming a full-time faculty member.

 Professor DiFonzo teaches courses in family law, civil procedure, and alternatives to litigation. He has written two books: Intimate Associations: The Law and Culture of American Families, co-authored with Ruth C. Stern, and Beneath the Fault Line: The Popular and Legal Culture of Divorce in Twentieth-Century America. His eclectic interests have also led him to publish articles on forensic evidence, collaborative law, and medical marijuana. In 2004 Professor DiFonzo gave the Peter E. Herman Prize for Literary Excellence Lecture titled “Unbundling Marriage: Interpreting the Legal and Cultural Changes in Family Structure.”  In 2006 he received the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award for his work on improving family law teaching.  In 2014, he delivered the Hofstra University Distinguished Faculty Lecture, Dilemmas of Shared Parenting in the 21st Century: How Law and Culture Shape Child Custody. He is serving this year as a Law School Research Fellow, working on a project to provide dispute resolution services to unrepresented parents in New York. 


Also on the agenda wa Mindy Mitnick, Ed.D., M.A. who presented on the Special Needs of Never Married Parents.

(Mindy Mitnick, Left; Christine Coastes, Right) 

We heard from Christine Coates, J.D., a renowned expert on Parenting Coordination, Mediation, High Conflict and ADR who presented on Parenting Coordination and Other Innovations for High Conflict Cases.

Plenary Session II: Special Needs of Never Married Parents  (10:30-12:00   1.5 hr)

Never married parents are appearing before the Court on matters of custody and parenting time in increasing numbers.  This program is intended for attorneys, mediators, evaluators, and judicial officers.  We will identify how family law professionals can help this diverse group navigate the system towards successful resolution of their disputes.  The workshop will provide potential solutions for conflicts experienced by this heterogeneous demographic.  We will focus on interventions tailored to the roadblocks to resolution typically seen in this group of parents, including ADR and evaluations.  


 Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

a.    Identify the similarities and differences in the group of never married parents

b.    Apply research to inform practice with these parents

c.    Understand the components of a successful co-parenting relationship in this population

Mindy F. Mitnick, Ed.D., is a Licensed Psychologist practicing in Minneapolis.  She received a Master of Education from Harvard University and a Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota.  She specializes in work with families in the divorce process and with victims of abuse and their families.  Ms. Mitnick has trained professionals throughout the country and abroad in identification and treatment of child abuse, the use of expert witnesses in child abuse and divorce cases, effective interviewing techniques with children, interventions in high-conflict divorce and the impact of psychological trauma.  She has been a speaker for the National Child protection Training Center, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, National Association of Counsel for Children, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and numerous statewide multidisciplinary training programs.  Ms. Mitnick has written and taught extensively about the assessment of child sexual abuse allegations during custody disputes.  Ms. Mitnick served as a member of the ABA Criminal Justice Section Task Force on Child Witnesses and as a member of the AFCC Task Force on Court-Involved Therapy.  She is serving her second term on the Board of Directors of AFCC.

Plenary Session III: Perspectives on Parenting Coordination and Other Innovations for High Conflict Cases (1:15-2:45   1.5 hr)

Parenting coordination is a relatively new process of ADR in family cases, having been introduced in the late 1990s.  The parenting coordination process has spread throughout North America and other countries and has become a popular intervention with post-decree, high-conflict families. As an early proponent and developer of the process and chair of AFCC’s Task Force on Parenting Coordination that published Guidelines for Parenting Coordination, the presenter will provide an overview of the evolution of parenting coordination, including current models of parenting coordination, best practices, and challenges. Creative and innovative interventions for high conflict families will also be highlighted, with suggestions for effective integration by practitioners. 

Learning Objectives

a.  The participants understand the most common models of parenting coordination.

b.  The participants recognize the best practices and challenges of serving as parenting coordinator.

c.  The participants are introduced to the dynamics of high conflict and recent innovations in interventions with high-conflict families. 

Christine A. Coates, M.Ed., J.D., an experienced family law attorney since 1983, now emphasizes alternative dispute resolution in domestic relations and has been a mediator for over 30 years.  A former president of AFCC, she chaired the Task Force on Parenting Coordination that developed AFCC’s Guidelines for Parenting Coordinators.  The co-author of two books, Working with High Conflict Families of Divorce (2001) and Learning from Divorce (2003), she is a frequent and popular national trainer and speaker on alternative dispute resolution. She has been honored for her advocacy for children, contributions to the legal system and to the field of alternative dispute resolution, including AFCC’s John Van Duzer Distinguished Service Award and its President’s Award, as well as the Association for Conflict Resolution’s John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award.  Ms. Coates also serves as adjunct professor at the University of Denver.  

Break Out Afternoon sessions included speakers 

such as Dr. Carl McCurley, Manager of the WA State Center for Court Research who has published data on the Residential Time Patterns in Washington custody cases. He spoke about Parenting Plans in Practice: Best Available Evidence.

(Dr. Carl McCurley, left; Paul Battan, J.D., middle; Alyson Jones, M.A., right)

Also on hand was local attorney Paul Battan, J.D. presenting on the Interface between Family Law and Criminal Law. And rounding out the sessions was a panel presentation by Alyson Jones, M.A., et al from Vancouver, BC entitled Moving Families Forward: A Coordinated Re-Unification Response to Parental Alienation, Estrangement, and High Conflict. 

Breakout Sessions     (3:00-4:30   1.5 hr)

Session A: Parenting Plans in Practice: Best Available Evidence.

The presentation covers the source data for and results from the Washington State Center for Court Research's series of Residential Time Summary Reports, launched in response to a request contained in legislation from the 2007 session. Data collection relies on self-report from parties filing dissolution petitions; although the data is the best currently available, it has important limitations and improvements to the data collection process will be recommended.  Results from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2014 reports will be presented, showing the distribution of residential time allocated to mothers and fathers, allocation of residential time in cases where one parent is reported to have one or more risk factors (having committed domestic violence, abuse or neglect of children, substance abuse, or mental health needs), residential time as it relates to representation of parties, and the use of dispute resolution.  

Learning Objectives:  Attendees will learn--  

a. Why the report series is produced  

 b. How data is collected, and who reports on residential time (by court, and the percentage of reports submitted by mothers or by fathers)  

 c. The results of analysis of the most recent data  

Carl McCurly, Ph.D. is the manager of the Washington State Center for Court Research. He has worked with the Center’s team of dedicated professionals since 2006 in close conjunction with courts to launch research projects and performance reporting programs aligned with the priorities of the judicial branch.  For example, the Center has designed, developed, and deployed performance reporting for both juvenile probation and children in foster care, and is working to develop state-wide, court-level reporting for multi-system involved youth. With Carl’s leadership the Center has formed long-term, cooperative, and productive working relationships with university, non-profit, and government researchers on topics ranging from children charged with status offending to creating, validating, and revising risk and need assessment instruments.  Before arriving in Washington, Carl was a researcher at the National Center for Juvenile Justice, where he worked on topics related to juvenile problem behaviors, including violent offending, violent sex offending, domestic violence, and substance use. Carl has extensive experience with the analysis of survey data and data from official sources, such as courts and law enforcement agencies, and has taught classes in public policy, public administration, and research methods at the university level. He received a B.A. in Government (University of Texas) and a Ph.D. in Political Science (Indiana University).  


Session B:  Interface Between Family Law and Criminal Law

Family law attorneys and mental health practitioners dealing with parents involved in custody disputes will confront situations where clients may engage in behaviors or have questions about acts which fall in the “convergence zone” of contested issues in civil domains and criminal activity as defined by prevailing Washington statutes. This workshop will afford participants an opportunity to consider a large number of such  circumstances (e.g., checking spouse’s email, installing keystroke monitor, calling a child and inadvertently talking to one’s ex-spouse when protective orders are in place). In addition to presenting a summary of many applicable RCW  references, there will be an emphasis on shared experience and discussion in this session.

Learning  Objectives: Participants will --

a. Receive a table of applicable criminal laws that could become an issue in a family law legal practice, a counseling practice, or for family law investigators.

b. Become alert to common actions which can prompt multiple jurisdiction concerns.

c. Share in a discussion of thorny issues which may be avoided with proper guidance from counsel or from therapists.

Paul Battan, J.D. has practiced law since 1983 in private practice in Olympia. Since 1985 he has focused on family law as a solo practitioner. Paul has served on the board of the Thurston County Bar Association, as the association=s President, as Family Law Section Chair, and Guardianship Roundtable Chair. For three years he served as Thurston County court commissioner for mental illness commitment hearings. He is a contributing author to one chapter of the Washington State Bar Association=s Family Law Deskbook. He served as the WSBA Family Law Executive Committee=s legislative liaison for one year.

Session C:  Moving Families Forward: a Coordinated Re-Unification Response to Parental Alienation, Estrangement and High Conflict Family Situations.

Alyson Jones, MA RCC , Saba Golchin, MA RCC, Rebecca Smyth, MA Candidate, and Rob Croezen, MSW RSW

It is widely recognized that parental alienation, estrangement and high conflict are some of the most difficult family situations for both lawyers and mental health professionals to deal with. The reality is that regular family therapy often does not work in these situations, and not everyone can afford a residential program. This workshop is designed to assist professionals in understanding family fractures and how to reunify a family when there has been a rejection of a parent, or attachment disruptions. The Family Forward Re-Unification Program is unique, but the workshop will demonstrate how the structure and model can be utilized by other professionals in this field.

The presenters will explain why a coordinated team approach is essential when dealing with complex family situations, and the workshop will provide a communication protocol that assists in time and cost efficiency in these cases. The presenters will provide practical tools regarding how to respond to family fractures. The structure of the team approach will be outlined and the different roles of the team members will be explored in a practical and informative manner. This highly coordinated and structured model provides a solution to these challenging and often heart-breaking cases.

Moving Families Forward Workshop Outline (90 minute workshop)

Introduction of Panel and Program; Overview of the Impact of Parental Conflict on Children

Information regarding Parental Alienation and Estrangement

The Family Forward Reunification program

Reality Checks when Dealing with High Conflict, and the implementation of a Coordinated Treatment Program

Structure of the Family Forward Program

Steps of the Program

Questions and Discussion

Learning Objectives:

a. Participants will become familiar with a non-residential re-integration model for parental alienation, estrangement and high conflict.

b. Participants will gain an understanding of a transparent communication protocol that creates containment and movement in highly challenging cases.

c. Participants will gain practical tools on how to respond to all family members within a family system that is experiencing an attachment disruption.

Alyson Jones, MA, RCC, will serve at the session coordinator. She is the Clinical Director and the visionary at Alyson Jones & Associates. She enthusiastically leads one of the largest counselling centers in the province of British Columbia and approaches her work with passion and commitment. She enjoys contribution, connection and community. Her work as clinical director, counsellor, public speaker, parent educator, teacher and author enables her to touch the lives of many.

Alyson has developed her MORE philosophy through many years of practice and practical living. She is a highly respected Child and Family Therapist who has been featured in the media sharing her extensive knowledge. Alyson is a public speaker, Facilitator and Strategic Coach who does presentations and workshops for both the public and professional audiences. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Adler School of Professional Psychology where she teaches graduate students in psychology.

As a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in therapy for children, adolescents, families, individuals and couples. SShe assists families in developing problem solving techniques, and also specializes in enhancing the attachment between parent and child. A main focus for Alyson is the issue of separation and divorce. She is  a trained Parent Coordinator, Mediator, Collaborative Law Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She works to assist families in reducing conflict and working towards a healthy resolution for the entire family. Alyson believes that people are immensely creative and guides them to use this strength in their efforts towards growth and transformation. She creates a safe place for children to grieve any feelings of loss, build self-esteem and regain a sense of control in their lives. She also guides parents through this challenging time and has helped many families adjust to this difficult life transition.

Details of her co-presenters is available at Alyson Jones and Associates website address (http://alysonjones.ca/our-therapists)


Be Sure to Mark Your Calendar for the 2016 National AFCC Conference to held in Seattle

June 1-4, 2016


Registration includes program materials, training and refreshments. Members will be holding a lunch meeting and mingle (buffet lunch served). Tickets are available for non-members to join the lunch meeting, otherwise lunch is on your own. Register early for savings. Class size is limited, so sign up soon. 

Program materials will be distributed on-line and by way of USB flash drive as PDF documents. Session materials will not be distributed in print form at the conference. High speed wireless internet is available at the Washington Athletic Club for a fee. 

Parking fees are not included. There are several public lots nearby and a parking facility used by the WAC is about a half-block north on Sixth. Public transportation is also available.

Lodging: Please make your own travel arrangements. A limited number of rooms are available at the WAC for WA AFCC attendees. Other major hotel chains such as the Sheraton are within easy walking distance. 

Who Should Attend?  Attorneys, Guardian Ad Litem, Judicial Officers, Psychologists, Mental Health Professionals, Researchers and Treatment Providers involved with Family Law and Dependency Court custody matters.   

Once the Registration Forms are prepared, we will have a link here for online registration and/or for a registration form to mail in.


Registration Information:

AFCC members receive a discounted rate and will be granted access to the member meeting and mingle at noon which will have a buffet luncheon served. Non-members may purchase a ticket for the luncheon at an extra charge. There are discounted rates for early registration and for various categories of registration – including lower rates for full time students, full time court personnel, and court personnel. Persons working with DSHS may request a 10% discount by contacting the program office directly. Full-time student rates require proof of full-time student status.


Continuing Education Credits:

The Washington State Bar (WSBA) has approved the program for up to 6.0 hours of Continuing Legal Education (Activity ID: 385994). 

This program has been approved for 6 hours of CEUs by the NASW Washington State Chapter. Licensed Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Mental Health Counselors are eligible. WA AFCC is an approved provider(#1975-312) for continuing education credits under the guidelines set forth by the NASW-WA chapter.

Attorneys wishing to have their CE credits reported to the WSBA for CLE certification will be required to pay a fee to cover administrative and reporting costs. AFCC members will be charged $10 for this reporting fee. Non-members will be charged $15.

The program has been reviewed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.  AFCC is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. AFCC maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

AFCC will provide a certificate of conference attendance for a processing fee of $10 for members and $15 for non-members. The certificate will verify attendance at conference sessions and may be used to apply for continuing education credits with the registrant’s accrediting institution.

All persons registered in advance will be able to pick up a certificate of attendance at the close of the conference. They will be required to fill out and return a verification of attendance form which will be signed by one of our staff. These certificates are provided with conference registration. However, only those persons paying the additional certificate fees noted above will have their CLE hours reported directly to the WSBA or receive a copy of the AFCC signed certificate.


Audio Recording: Conference sessions will be recorded and MP3 downloads of the sessions will be available after the conference through VWTapes.com who will offer both immediate MP3 downloads and CD formats. Information will be posted on our website for access to these and other conference recordings. You may also go to VWTapes directly at http://vwtapes.com/wa-afcc.aspx to purchase recordings. No personal audio or video recording of sessions is permitted.

Special Needs: If you have special meal requests or other special needs, please note this on the registration form. The WAC meeting facilities, its guest rooms, common areas, and transportation services are in compliance with public accommodation requirements of the ADA.

Cancellation Policy: Transfer of registration to another person may be done at any time prior to the event without a fee. All requests for refunds must be made in writing. Written notice of cancellation received by fax or postmarked by February 25, 2015 will be issued a full refund minus a $25 service fee. Written notice after February 25th will have the service fee deducted and the balance will be issued as a credit for future WA AFCC conferences, publications, or membership dues. No refunds or credits will be issued for cancellations received after March 3, 2015.


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