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Toronto Tries the “New” One-Stop-Shop concept: Integrating Domestic Violence and Family Law Cases

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Just a little break in my relentless pursuit of Minnesotan, Nevadan, and Californian promotions of Justice Centers and other collaborative endeavors, through various nonprofit corporations and with federal support…  Let’s look at One-Stop Shops in Canada.

At a Canadian-Irish Family Law Conference in 2010, the Hon. Geraldine Waldman – – spoke.  Her background:

she worked with many community groups and other organizations engaged in promoting law reform in the area of family law, and in particular in the area of domestic violence. Justice Waldman was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 1991. She has presided in the family court in Toronto since 1998. She is Local Administrative Judge of the North York Family Court and the Chair of the Ontario Court of Justice Chief Justice’s Advisory Committee on Family Law. Justice Waldman is currently involved in the development of an integrated domestic violence court in Toronto Canada.

(There was one representative from the US, Debra McNabb, Circuit Court Referee from Michigan, speaking on:

Deborah Mc Nabb, Circuit Court Referee – ‘Out of the Mouth of Babes; The Evolution of a Child’s Right to be Heard in Michigan Family Court’


Here is a “what and why of the proposed integrated domestic violence court” by this judge.  (IT’s short enough…):

The court is modeled on similar courts operating in several states in the United States including New York, Vermont and Idaho. The court is based on a one-family-one-judge concept. Simply put, both the criminal and family case will be dealt with in one court before a single judge. While one judge will case manage both the family and criminal cases, each will be dealt with separately. The cases are not combined but they do appear before the single judge in sequence

In addition to the usual resources, the court will also have a community resource coordinator who will assist litigants in accessing appropriate resources and may assist in monitoring the litigant’s compliance with referrals.

This very much sounds to me like the courts want to refer clients out to services, and will be developing ongoing relationships with non-judicial, non-legal service providers.  I am wondering whether these are government-supported (and whether there is no profit motive influencing referrals).  I am wondering about the US Models they are basing this after.  I am wondering about the various community resources they say will, in effect, “handle” criminal domestic violence issues in family contexts, and what is their slant. ….  The next paragraph is a pop quiz.  Does any category of professional catch your ear, if you are a regular visitor to my blog (and know what I complain loudly about….)?

The court has been developed over the past eighteen months through consultation with a broad based community board. The board includes judges, family lawyers, criminal lawyers, Legal Aid Ontario representatives, Victim Witness Assistance Program personnel, police, probation, domestic violence victim advocates, parenting skills providers, mental health services, shelters, community organizations such as Mothercraft, Elizabeth Fry, and Family Services Association, court services, and representatives from the Ministry of the Attorney General.


Let’s run that by again….. Can you see the AFCC input?  next to the “domestic violence victim advocates.”

The court has been developed over the past eighteen months through consultation with a broad based community board. The board includes judges, family lawyers, criminal lawyers, Legal Aid Ontario representatives, Victim Witness Assistance Program personnel, police, probation, domestic violence victim advocates, parenting skills providers,* mental health services, shelters, community organizations such as Mothercraft, Elizabeth Fry, and Family Services Association, court services, and representatives from the Ministry of the Attorney General.


*(under Parenting Skills Providers, a 2004 article, as to Ontario):

Family Court clinics connected to courts in various provincial centres may provide programs for children. Since 1999, each unified family court in the province contracts for four services, including parent education programs. It is not known if any of these programs include children’s program components.

–  Until recently, Toronto’s Family Court Clinic partnered with the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry to provide For Kids’ Sake, an intensive therapy-based program for children in distress as a result of their parents’ high conflict separation and divorce. (there’s the AFCC vocabulary….).   



Oddly, although we know that child protection and domestic violence issues overlap, this court specificaly separates out child protection cases…

IDV COURT: (from court’s descriptive site)

  • The family will appear before a single dedicated judge for both the domestic violence criminal charge and the family (custody, access and/or support) matters.
  • The criminal and family cases will be heard on the same day in the same courtroom.
  • The IDV Court Judge will have more complete information about the family.
  • Having one Judge will enhance consistency between family and criminal court orders. (diluting which one, then? — probably the criminal)
  • The IDV Court Judge will be able to monitor the family. This will increase accountability of the accused and enhance the complainant’s safety.
  • The IDV Court will include a Community Resource Coordinator, who will assist the parties in finding resources and services to assist with their problems.
  • If a party qualifies for legal aid, Duty Counsel will be available for the family cases and, for the accused only, for the criminal cases.
  • The family will have access to family supports and services including Family Law Information Centre (FLIC) matters and court counter services.
  • There will be access to support in the criminal cases including the Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP),Partner Assault Response (PAR), security, and court counter services.
  • Delays in hearing the family and criminal matters should be reduced.

Well, who pays the Community Resource Coordinator?  And is the relationship with the “community resources” being referred to, untained by conflict of interest?

New court integrates domestic violence and family court cases

Want to bet some of the same language (borrowed from?) the US shows up here?  Like  holistic, non-adversarial, streamlined, calling this an “initiative” and it’s about better serving families?

Let’s see:

The Canadian Press

Date: Friday Jun. 10, 2011 2:38 PM ET

TORONTO — In a first for the Canadian justice system, a new initiative in Ontario aimed at minimizing the hardships for families in crisis is merging some family court and domestic violence cases.

The Integrated Domestic Violence Court will serve people who are dealing with family court issues as well as a criminal charges related to domestic abuse.

Note the word “violence” has already been downgraded to “abuse.” . . . . . . Although somehow a crime / criminal charge is in the mix.

It will run on a pilot project basis in one Toronto courthouse with an eye to expanding in the province if it’s deemed a success. In the works for a year-and-a-half, the court heard its first case Friday.

The province, the judiciary and the many community organizations involved in establishing the court hope it will resolve such difficult issues faster, with less conflict and more affordably with a one-case, one-judge approach.

WHAT other “many community organizations”?  Is it designated in the Canadian Constitution that local organizations set judicial standards, and due process standards?

Faster, cheaper, and one-judge system.  That’s great if your judge is honest & ethical.

“We think that that will lead to a more integrated, holistic approach, a greater understanding of what the issues are in the family, more consistent orders,” said Peter Griffiths, the associate chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. (note — click on link, and a link advertising this court shows at top)

Yep, I expected that word “holistic.”  However, if something has “integrity” it’s “whole” (and integer is a whole number, not a fraction, or fracture splinter of one, right?).  “holistic” implies it’s tending towards being “hole” — meaning more likely the “hole” that the process of seeking justice just was dumped into.  What I suspect this is going to mean is, this is where the therapists etc. can get better in, to smooth out the rough edges of, say, criminal charges against a family member.

It can create havoc in the family,” Griffiths said. “The emphasis in this court really is on a more mediated, less adversarial system.

Mediation is an AFCC thing.  It’s their emphasis, overall.  These are definitely buzz-words — more mediation, lower conflict, and the adversarial system.  How can a victim of domestic violence be forced (or reconditioned) to see the perpetrator of it as less than an “adversary”?  THe act of violence is adversarial in nature.  As is seeking custody…

The havoc caused in US (from my point of view) comes from the family law’s clear intent to undermine the criminal law’s effect and impact.  At least this is waht the primary family law association, AFCC, declares on its website as an intent.  Consequently, a person can understand that a crime has been committed, considering the penal code, but should their case land in family court (which is where many of them get shunted to, if children are involved), then it wasn’t a crime, it was a family dispute that requires mediation and access visitation help to the noncustodial parent.  If he’s male….

It can be quite onerous on anyone, let alone the victim of a domestic assault, to have to be involved with two completely separate court cases, said family lawyer Lauren Israel, who was on the project’s advisory committee.

“The clients that this court will be servicing are under tremendous emotional stress and I think that trying to . . . minimize the stress involved in process will benefit everybody,” she said.

Well, if someone has actually been violent towards a spouse or child, and has committed a crime against that spouse/partner or child (or the child(ren) witnessed it) let that person feel some stress, for a change.  Because that behavior is evil.  It’s appropriate to feel stress when one has committed a crime.  If, however, there is a fair legal system and one has NOT committed a crime, then although the tension is equally high, then the truth can come out and one could be exonerated.

However, in this “mediator-involved” system the power goes to the hands of the mediator.  Who owns (pays) the mediator’s allegiance gets the win in court, generally.     that’s hugely stressful on the victim(s) of any real crimes, knowing that their safety and futures depends on a third party’s input (at least as it’s done in the US).

However, more relevant is, who is Lauren Israel?

1998 article tells of a mother jailed for contempt of a court order, though she claims didn’t breach it.  Child support arrears seems to have been a factor. The article is on a site called “Dadscanada.” The mother being jailed has an 18 month old baby with new husband, who had to take off work; the father got custody of the 4 year old while Mom was doing her time….  Attorney Lauren Israel was called in to help the mother

Mom gets 60 days for denying Dad access to their daughter

February 28, 1998, BY PATRICIA ORWEN, in The Toronto Star

She, however, maintained she always complied with the order, except when the child – who is asthmatic was sick.

She was jailed Monday after a hearing in a Brampton court. …

Barbosa, who was allowed only a short telephone interview from behind a plexiglass wall in the visitor’s room of the jail, said she fears that both her children will he emotionally scarred by her legal battle with the father and, now, by her jailing.

Tuesday is Britney’s 5th birthday.

“What will she feel when I’m not there?” asked Barbosa, who has always been a stay-at-home mother to Britney. ”

Her mother, Nancy Tempelmann, has contacted Toronto family lawyer Lauren Israel.

She has also enlisted the support of the mothers’ right group Mothers Against Fathers In Arrears. [MAFIA]

Dadd says he has kept his child support payments up to date.

When told about the case, Israel said she had never heard of any woman receiving a 60-day sentence for such an offence.

“It’s very unusual,” she said.

More about this new court — it’s not a trial court.  If the accused person wants a trial, they can go back to a “real” court.  This one was based on a model in New York.

Attorney General Chris Bentley said the court is largely aimed at helping women, who are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence, but will also benefit children and the family unit as a whole.

“You want to hold offenders accountable for what they’ve done,” he said in an interview. “You want to safeguard victims and families from any future harm, but you also want to resolve the issues that are outstanding as effectively as you can so that families can get on with the future.”

As someone who works with women who are victims of domestic violence, Lisa Manuel said the court is “well overdue.”

“The concept of an integrated court is wonderful because that really meets the needs of women,” said Manuel, the director of the family violence program at Family Service Toronto.

It can be a challenge to physically navigate between the two courts because in some cities they’re not even in the same building, let alone trying to deal with the stress of such situations, she said.

Manuel said she has heard of instances where in order to comply with both a custody order and a restraining order, one parent takes a child to a parking lot and the other parent is waiting at the far end. The child then has to walk from one end to the other so neither of the orders are violated, she said.

The court, which will be held in the courthouse at 311 Jarvis St., in Toronto, is thought to be unique in Canada and was developed based on a model in place in New York. It will also have a community resource worker who can connect families to services that address the issues that brought them to court in the first place.

Who is to say what issues brought them to court?  According to the description:  1.  Domestic violence or “abuse”, and 2.  Custody.  These usually go together, like a knockout punch.  One — defend from domestic violence; Two — have the person just sought protection from seek custody of the children.

Participation in the court is voluntary and it is not a trial court. So if the person charged with domestic violence wants to go to trial instead of pleading guilty, that case would be sent back to criminal court.

In the early stages, cases will be heard in the court every other Friday. Divorce and family property cases will still be heard in Superior Court.

More information, on searching the name of this court.  Apparently there are already “domestic Violence Courts” but this one integratees custody matters also?

DadsCanada claims that the Ontario Legal Aid is funded in part by the Attorney’s Office and a (private nonprofit?) “The Law Society of Upper Canada.” They believe this legal aid is weighted towards females….

From the Attorney General’s site:

Ontario’s Domestic Violence Court (DVC) program is the most extensive DVC program in Canada. It facilitates the prosecution of domestic assault cases and early intervention in abusive domestic situations, provides better support to victims and increases offender accountability.

In a DVC program, teams of specialized personnel, including police, Crown attorneys, Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) staff, probation services, Partner Assault Response (PAR) program staff and community agencies, work together to ensure priority is given to the safety and needs of domestic assault victims and their children.

An operational DVC includes the following components:

  • A Domestic Violence Court Advisory Committee
  • Specially trained domestic violence Crowns, VWAP staff, and interpreters
  • Specialized evidence collection and investigation procedures by police
  • Case management procedures to coordinate prosecutions and ensure early intervention
  • Partner Assault Response intervention program
  • Expanded training for police, Crowns, VWAP staff, court staff, Probation and Parole staff, and interpreters

There is now a Domestic Violence Court Program in each of the province’s 54 court jurisdictions.

(the “PAR” Partner Assault Response” in the US would be called a “Batterers Intervention Program.”  Described as:

“Partner Assault Response (PAR) programs, a component of Ontario’s Domestic Violence Court program, are specialized counselling and educational services offered by community-based agencies to people who have assaulted their partners.  Offenders are ordered to attend the PAR program by the court.  PAR programs aim to enhance victim safety and hold offenders accountable for their behaviour.

The 16-week long program gives offenders the opportunity to examine their beliefs and attitudes towards domestic abuse, and to learn non-abusive ways of resolving conflict. 

While an offender is in the PAR program, staff offer their partner help with safety planning, referrals to community resources, and information about the offender’s progress.”

Family COurts, apparently, are separate in Ontario, as described here:

In Ontario, family law matters are heard in the Ontario Court of Justice, the Superior Court of Justice, or the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice, depending on the issue in dispute and where you are located in the province.

Family Court (sometimes referred to as the unified Family Court)
There are 17 Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice locations in Ontario: Barrie, Bracebridge, Brockville, Cobourg, Cornwall, Hamilton, Kingston, L’Orignal, Lindsay, London, Napanee, Newmarket, Oshawa/Whitby, Ottawa, Perth, Peterborough, and St. Catharines.Where the Family Court branch exists, the court hears all family law matters, including divorce, division of property, child and spousal support, custody and access, adoption, and child protection applications. In all other sites across the province, family law matters are divided between the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice.
MICOD/AFCC Annual Conference; Custody and High Conflict Families:  Strengths, Challenges and Options, Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.; St. Paul, MN

Under “helping families” in two places, the parallel to educating parents about the impact of divorce on children seems to be here:


Brampton and Milton’s family courts are now helping parents better understand the court system and how to help their children when going through separations or divorces.

A local team of justice partners, including judges, Legal Aid Ontario staff, lawyers, mediators and court staff are working together to:

  • Provide mandatory information sessions to help families learn about the effects of separation on children and the options available to them to resolve their disputes
  • Evaluate each family’s situation and recommend the most appropriate services
  • Offer volunteer senior lawyers, called dispute resolution officers, who will help families find less confrontational ways of resolving disputes before appearing in court
  • Provide greater access to legal advice and alternatives to litigation, such as mediation.

These new services began helping families this week. As part of Ontario’s family justice reforms, these two family courts were selected to be the first to help improve family justice and develop new initiatives to help reduce the stress on families. These initiatives in Brampton and Milton will help inform future improvements to court locations across the province.


“These improvements will help families resolve difficult issues faster and with less emotional stress when their relationships break down.”
– Chris Bentley, Attorney General

“Legal Aid Ontario recognizes that there is a clear need to make improvements to our system of family justice, and we are pleased to support these significant steps in family justice reform.”
– John McCamus, Chair of Legal Aid Ontario

Learn about how the McGuinty government’s investment of an additional $150 million in Legal Aid Ontario will help to ensure Ontarians have access to the legal services they need and drive reforms in the family and criminal courts.

And here is from “SLAW.ca” “Canada’s on-line legal magazine”, a writer who actually called the concept a One-Stop Shop.   This is basically the entire post, which raises some good questions.

Edward Prutschi May 18, 2011  (Mr. Prutschi practices as a criminal defence lawyer in an Ontario firm)…

Integrated Domestic Violence Court – One‑Stop Courthouse Shopping

Regular readers of my SLAW column will know that, while I’m an ardent supporter of initiatives that enhance the efficiency of our criminal justice system, I am also a regular critic of how that same system deals with the deluge of domestic-related charges that clog our courts on a daily basis. For these very reasons, a promising new pilot project has recently caught my attention.

The Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV) has ambitious plans to combine cases from two of Toronto’s busiest courthouses: the criminal courts of The Old City Hall and the family courts housed at 311 Jarvis Street. While shying away from the most complex issues that arise can arise (criminal trials, divorce, family property, and child protection proceedings) the IDV will have authority to conduct case conferences, make temporary orders, and final orders on consent of the parties in family cases for custody, access, and support along with hearing bail variations, conducting criminal pre-trials and accepting guilty pleas.

Numerous potential advantages accrue by hearing the criminal and family cases in a single courtroom before a single judge. First and foremost, the presiding jurist enjoys the benefit of a far more complete picture of the family situation. Allegations of domestic violence can be better assessed and addressed in the context of the underlying (and frequently related) stressors that are part of the baggage of many family proceedings. There is the potential for substantial time savings and reduced court appearances which should translate into reduced legal fees for clients mired in the system. An integrated system also completely eliminates the common problem of inconsistent orders where the family court requires access and contact between the parties while the criminal court bail prohibits it.

At this embryonic stage in the pilot program, a number of important questions remain unanswered. All parties must consent to the process before being transferred to the IDV and approval by the criminal crown attorney is also required. What factors will be considered by the crown in assessing which cases are screened eligible for the IDV? What will be the Crown’s involvement once a case has been transferred? Where will jurists for the new court be drawn from – the family system, criminal courts, or both?

This last question raises particularly thorny issues as many judges within either of the two systems have little or no experience with the contrasting theme. Can a criminal court judge who spent her entire career before being appointed to the bench as a defence lawyer or crown be reasonably expected to understand the intricacies of family support orders? Similarly, will defence lawyers and crowns trust a career family lawyer and family court judge to make appropriate rulings on bail conditions and criminal sentences?

On a practice-management level, it is also unclear whether the IDV anticipates having clients represented by separate criminal and family counsel or whether the expectation is that a single lawyer will be responsible for both legal areas. Clients working on a tight budget (which, if we are not kidding ourselves, will be the vast majority) will be sorely tempted to seek out ‘jack-of-all-trades’ counsel even though they may be better served by experienced counsel with focussed expertise in these vastly different specialities.

While questions abound and bumps in the road are inevitable, the Ontario Courts are to be commended for having the courage to engage in some creative thinking on how to address the complex interdisciplinary problems posed by domestic violence. This is one experiment whose results are worth watching closely.


It’s obvious that Canada does study its southern, North American, neighbor for court models (not to mention that AFCC also has Canadian members, conferences, and of course influence).  But for the dubious, here is a paper back in 2004, from the Canadian “Department of Justice” (“Justice.gc.ca”) with French/English links, and it’s called:



High-conflict Separation and Divorce: Options for Consideration


It studies several States in the US:  Idaho (first), Oregon, Washington, California (of course).  It then presents a case for “Parent Coordinators and Enforcement Models” (Under 6.1.5) and mentions Arizona (states in which forced-co-parenting is known to have resulted in family homicides, i.e., Dawn Axsom case), Michigan, and again refers to Oregon, cites Janet Johnston, Ph.D. (AFCC, Board member, I think), and citing a paper “Interventions for High-Conflict Families: A National Perspective.”

Everyone uses the term, it seems.  Here, a Lexis-Nexis abstract combines “parent education” “high-conflict” and of course “parental alienation”  Here’s a California “CFCC” (2003) publication, with one article called:

Effective Intervention With High-Conflict Families: How Judges Can Promote and Recognize Competent Treatment in Family Court Lyn R. Greenberg, Jonathan W. Gould, Hon. Robert Alan Schnider, Dianna J. Gould-Saltman & David A. Martindale.  (Basically, they are looking ways to prescribe mental health treatment — see?

49 = The authors {some of who are mental health professionals standing to profit from the recommendations} explore the proper role of mental health professionals providing treatment of children and families involved in custody and visitation cases and offer a framework {justification} for judicial officers to use in ordering and assessing appropriate treatment.

This is hardly suprising — the functional purpose of the family law system, from what I can tell, is to take situations involving criminal actions (which are the most highly contested ones), milk the $$ out of it, and make sure that it’s reframed as a FAMILY problem, when at least in the U.S., we are supposedly under a Constitution with some protections for rights of individuals, even if they happen to have given birth or sired children.   Are all criminal codes “off” & less relevant til all children are grown?

Really now — the  constant reference to “parents” or “families” as high-conflict when in fact, the policy of family law to insist (regardless of whether one parent is actually abusive, violent, or has threatened to kill the other parent, kidnap, etc.) that all MUST co-parent or give up their kids to strangers — is what creates the very long-term, chronic stress situations ideally calling for mental health intervention.  “Voila!” and they have just the plan for who…


Either way, that article  is a publication of the Judicial Council of California, which has been having its own problems recently, many of them financial.   In fact an Alliance of California Judges assembled itself in 2009, and put out a piece called “who really runs the judicial branch?  The head of the judicial council, Vickrey, was asked to step down by two assembly persons, citing a statewide (computerized) case management system (CCMS) that ballooned from a cost of $260 million (2004) to $1.9 billion…. (Link, here), incl.  ” Czuleger charged that the agency’s “dual bookkeeping and failure to be forthcoming” have made its honesty suspect, while the administrators have shown “a pattern of incompetence continuing to this very day.” and “We need to face the larger truth: our judicial governance structure is broken,” wrote Judge Charles Horan from Los Angeles Superior Court, by far the largest court in California and in the nation as a whole. “Some of our leaders appear arrogant, and others too accustomed to power. Things must change.

Sounds like they got their own “high-conflict” issues within one state’s court system, and the largest in the US, too.  Should I recommend they sit through one of their colleague’s intervention classes, called (well repurposing the title) “People in the Middle” and how stressful this is for the taxpayers?

Anyhow, several Judicial Council of California / AOC / CFCC members (publication above, 2003) are also AFCC members, i.e., high-ranking…..


While I’m sure that this paper exists, the term “High-Conflict” and the egotistic insistence on “intervening” with the bad (they have conflict) parents is an AFCC specialty.  I searched the title, above, and found that a MN chapter of AFCC (in July 2010) had a special meeting on it, with invited speaker:  See:   “Intensive Interventions for High Conflict Parents”  The speaker, AFCC Board of Directors, editorial board of “Journal of Child Custody” and co-chair of a Task Force (AFCC-initiatied) developing guidelines for court-ordered therapists.  He is the big draw in this conference, and works out of Palo Alto, CA.  “Parenting Coordination” is under a big push these days (though not the first year it was so) and there was apparently a “special issue” of the journal on Parenting Coordination.

Anyhow, this Dr. Matthew J. Sullivan, is spoke on (or at least the 2010 conference brochure advertised he would):

Dr. Sullivan has written articles, presented and done trainings at numerous national and international venues on topics such as high-conflict divorce, parenting coordination, child alienation and mental health consultationin family law cases….

Dr. Sullivan has served on the AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordination and the American Psychological and American Bar Association working group on legal and psychological interventions with children and families. His website, http://www.californiaparentingcoordinator.com (type it in yourself, I’m not hyperlinking!)/

Searching the term led also to a woman who’s all about AFCC if you scan the bio below:  Judy Sherwood:  The terms are getting predictable; one could almost throw them up in the air, catch them, re-assemble them at will and come up with the title of a past AFCC conference, such as:

  • AFCC MN Chapter:  Is it Abuse, Alienation, and / or Estrangement:  A Decision Tree – 2009. or,
  • MICOD/AFCC Annual Conference; Custody and High Conflict Families:  Strengths, Challenges and Options, Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.; St. Paul, MN  {{author of Mom’s House/Dad’s House, marketed all over US through courts, etc.}}

Here’s one indicating they are playing the role of a legendary (Biblical) king, “Solomon” who asked for wisdom of God, and reputedly got it, as examined in a famous case where the king had to decided which was the real mother.  He lifted a sword over his head to split the baby in half.  The real mother ceded her rights to let the child live, and was identified, and the child returned to her . . . . . . .  Can you believe it, the analogy is taken seriously here?  The whole theme of the association is to spilt the children in half and call in the referees, for personal profit and prestige, etc…. (and to keep the professional niches going….).

  • Solomon’s Surrogates:  Minnesota Association of Custody Resolution Specialists.   {{Solomon is gone, so guess who volunteers to stand in…how ironic — how narcissistic.  If Solomon, or someone of that stature existed, then there would be fewer family court disasters; he could tell a good (real) mother from a fake one……}}

From what I can tell, this was also probably deductible as continuing education in how to intervene with families, alongside “Advanced Topics in Parenting Consulting.”

Here (OK, OK) is Dr. Sparks’ “Parentingcoordinator.com” site.  Please note — he has no legal training, but is in the “mental health” field, and takes personal credit for pioneering the field of “parenting coordination” across US and of course elsewhere (typical).  Also note, recently inducted into the AFCC hall of fame (board of directors).  Obviously, this practice expands the available areas of practice, regardless of what it does to parents to be subjected to this, year after year:

California Parenting Coordinator.com

Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist (California Lic. # PSY10214) in private practice in Palo Alto, California, who specializes in forensic child and family psychology. He has been in private practice in Palo Alto for 20 years, specializing in Forensic Family psychology.**

He is a pioneer in the field of Parenting Coordination, which he helped develop in Santa Clara County more than 15 years ago, and has led the development of Parenting Coordination across the U.S. He is one of the most experienced Parent Coordinators (called Special Master in California) in the country. Some of the other roles he serves for families going through divorce include:

  1. Numerous court appointed roles – custody evaluator, mediator, special master, and coparent counselor and consultant – in courts across California,
  2. Expert testimony in custody situations in jurisdictions across the U.S. Dr. Sullivan provides consultation services to forensic professionals, Family Law attorneys and parents in the context of child custody issues.
  3. Numerous articles, published and trainings provided at numerous national and international venues on topics such as high-conflict divorceParent CoordinationForensic Consultation and Child Alienation.
  4. Dr. Sullivan completed a year in 2007 providing the California Rule of Court 5.225 mandatory training of over 200 Custody Evaluators in California.

He served on the editorial board of the Journal of Child Custody and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Task Force on Parenting Coordination and was appointed in 2008 to a joint working group of the American Psychological Association and the American Bar Association to develop innovative psychological and legal interventions for parents, children and families.

Dr. Sullivan is currently the co-chair of the AFCC’s task force on Court-involved therapy. The goals are to provide the first guidelines for this role. He was just appointed to a three-year term of office on the Association of Family and Conciliation Court’s Board of Directors.

Academic Background

  1. A.B. from Stanford, Human Biology with a focus on Neurobiology
  2. Ph.D. in Clinical & Community Psychology from the University of Maryland, 1985.
  3. Palo Alto Veterans Administration internship with an emphasis on Family Systems

Forget the legal part . . . . . . .  . In practice, it’s all about psychology.

*Remembering that a psychologist is often a would-be psychiatrist.  They can’t prescribe medicine, but it helps the ego, I’m sure to continue to use words like “forensic” and see clients as subjects. …  Notice also the co-occurring positions, as good a reason as any that I think the whole dang system ought to be exposed (even to parents with “high conflict”) and boycotted, leaving the practitioners as high and dry as some of us were when we walked in thinking that this had anything to do with law.

Got it?

What I’d recommend doing: simply get a hold of an AFCC list (or join it, is one way) and find out who’s a member in your locale.  Quiz them on a few things (like some of the Bill of Rights).  Find out the businesses in your area taking court-referrals and make sure no judges (etc.) are on the boards that might also have an open case in front of them.  Track the local county funding, payrolls, you name it.  If the state that is being used as a MODEL for how to run a family law (California is definitely one of them) has its own judges saying “who runs the courts in California” and being caught overbilling, double-billing, and a few other things — what does that say of anyone who is copying that model?  Eh???

(And if this doesn’t work, I”ll go sic Ellen Pence on them….)

Get this:  we have “no-fault divorce” which should mean, low-conflict.  But, the professionals basically blame the parents for divorcing.  Then they talk about non-adversarial, and set up a system where the only way to succeed is to exert undue influence on whichever court professional holds the control of your case presently — which is often not the judge, but who the judge is in business with.  Safety, desire to stay alive, or physically emotionally intact (cf  “LIFE in the “LIFE, LIBERTY & PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS” motto) is no excuse for being a bad parent (i.e., has a conflict with the other one).


And this from the country whose President did a pre-emptive war, or so.  I mean, think about it?  What’s the issue with Conflict?  You injure me, threaten me, destroy or steal something of mine, of course there’s a conflict, if I’m sentient and not too numb from the last scenario.

.  Keep this up a few years, and more conflict — I will want out.  Now some mental health professionals say, I must stay back in for the kids, and the kids are exposed to the same treatment?  And while we all continue working out “who’s the boss” and which is more important – jumping through court-ordered (capricious) hoops and being potentially labeled a “good” doggie (meanwhile rapidly losing a sense of personal integrity and self-respect), or objecting properly, because of the “conflict” with the mental health theme with the civil rights theme — and lose contact with one’s children.  (And work life). .. . . . .

??  Are you kiddin’ me?

(I may not be saying this too well — in fact, am definitely not — but something isn’t right about the unilateral objection (by mental healthprofessionals) to “conflict.”  What they really mean is unresolved conflicts that cause continuing struggle for dominance, combined with an inability to get free from the situation, or make it into something better, redemptive (etc.)

At some level, it seems they are incapacitating a whole population, focusing on the poor in particular.   Anyone willing to protect something worthwhile is going to run into conflict occasionally.  But they also can then develop some wisdom in how to stop continually running into conflict with the same people.  Typically, this is called leaving the situation, separation.

The family law situation is quite similar to many classroom situations in public schools across the country.  Kids are boxed in together with all different kinds of classmates, with each others’ issues, and no going out til the bell rings.  if the material is too boring (not advanced enough), there are different ways to handle this boredom.  There’s bullying, it’s acknowledged, and multiple problems.  Whereas, in a different scenario, with less force and compulsion, I think that the better sides of people to negotiate their way through life (even educational life) might happen.  Allowing a variety of languages and systems of meanings into the place –r ather than the codified, hierarchical, AFCC-generated artificial vocabulary for real-world situations, which is arranged and agreed upon in conferences, in publications half the litigants couldn’t afford (or don’t know exist), and so forth.

There’s GOTTA be a better way.




(This below relates more to the Canadian incident).

I looked up “Domestic Violence Advisory Committee” hoping to find Lauren Israel, family attorney.  I didn’t so far, but I did find that each DV court has a DVAdvisory Committee.  Here is one, and an article on The tendency to use “gender-neutral” language to describe violence against women.

It was prepared by two professors of criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (one male, one female, both Ph.D.s)

Shifting Public Policy Direction: Gender-Focused Versus Bi-Directional Intimate Partner Violence

Transforming our Communities

A Report Prepared by

Walter S. DeKeseredy, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Oshawa, Ontario
Canada L1H 7K4

Molly Dragiewicz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Oshawa, Ontario
Canada L1H 7K4

March 2, 2009

©Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2009.


Popular conceptions of violence as gender-neutral are increasingly becoming “common sense” in Canada (Minaker & Snider, 2006, p. 755). However, gender-neutral discourse distorts research on woman abuse, violence against same-sex partners, and on violence against men. The move to gender-neutral or bi-directional language is not merely semantic. Rather, it reflects an intense political struggle to typify violence against intimate partners that has serious pragmatic implications. Indeed, the endorsement of terminology effectively advocates certain responses to violence and abuse and precludes others.

“Prior to the 1970s, there was no name for violence against women by their husbands or partners (Denham & Gillespie, 1999, p. 6).

Although there has been episodic concern with various types of violence against women in Canadian history, women physically abused by male intimate partners and acquaintances were not of interest until recently to social scientists, practitioners, politicians, and the general public. It was, after all, only 40 years ago that an exhaustive bibliography on wife beating could be written on an index card (DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 2002). Since then, predominantly because of feminist efforts, many residents of Ontario and other Canadian provinces are paying considerable attention to the various harms women experience during and after intimate relationships. One of the key results of this extensive work has been the reduction of some persistent injurious myths (e.g., only poor women are beaten). Yet, at the same time, some prominent researchers, journalists, and even some well known Canadian politicians continue to attract much publicity with arguments that include other highly problematic conceptions about the nature of violence against intimate partners.

What Martin D. Schwartz and Walter DeKeseredy stated 16 years ago still holds true today: “Right now, there is an important battle being waged over the nature of women’s behaviour and its role in woman abuse” (1993, p. 249). For example, while many people from different walks of life continue to use terms such as “woman abuse,” “violence against women,” and “male-to-female violence,” there are also many people who fervently oppose these names and contend that we should use gender-neutral terms like “family violence” or “intimate partner violence” (IPV). Their rationale is heavily based on some Canadian national survey data, which, at first glance, show that violence in intimate, heterosexual relationships is sex-symmetrical. Of course, there are government agencies and community groups who also favour the labels “family violence” or “IPV” because they claim that these terms are more inclusive (Denham & Gillespie, 1999). Regardless of the reasons why people use gender-neutral terms, such language suggests that violence results from ordinary, everyday social interactions in the family or other intimate relationships that have gone wrong and that women are just as responsible for the problem as men (DeKeseredy, 2009; Ellis & DeKeseredy, 1996, Kurz, 1989).

Over the past 40 years, there have been significant shifts in the generally accepted definitions of woman abuse, and there have been passionate disagreements along the way. Even the term used here, “woman abuse,” is relatively recent. Before 1970, in Canada and other Western industrialized countries, there was no name for violence against women by their husbands or other intimate partners. Then, in the 1970s, feminists and others began to talk about violence against women and created the first emergency shelters for abused women. In the early and mid-1970s, women working at the community level used the terms “wife beating” and “wife battering” to describe the problem (DeKeseredy & MacLeod, 1997; Walker, 1990). The term “battered” was borrowed from legal references to “assault and battery.” “Wife beating” referred to the way in which women who had been physically abused by their husbands might describe their own experiences.”


Written by Let's Get Honest|She Looks It Up

June 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm

One Response

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  1. Nonprofits do valuable work in the communities they serve to create a better quality of life and safe neighbourhoods. The great part of being in a community in Ontario is that we are all helping each other reach this goal. There are many helpful programs in place to help nonprofits deliver quality services to Ontarians, such as the Community Use of Schools program and the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy. See the progress report here: http://bit.ly/mLFvFx

    Keerthana Kamalavasan

    July 13, 2011 at 9:38 am

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