Institutes 1-2

12:30PM - 2:00PM

There will be a 60-minute break after the first session and a 30-minute break after the second session.

1. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me: Are You Being Conned by a Coercive Controlling Abuser? (Segment 1)

One of the biggest challenges facing professionals in cases involving possible coercive controlling abuse is the tendency of abusers—and occasionally their victims—to deny, minimize, and otherwise obfuscate the facts. Complicating everything is the fact that COVID-19 has provided abusers with many new tools with which to entrap and control their partners and to dupe practitioners. Increased reliance on remote mediation, interviews, and hearings can further confound the practitioners’ ability to divine what is really going on. It is important for practitioners to understand the range of tactics that abusers can use to control their partners and children and to bamboozle professionals. This interactive institute will improve practitioners’ ability to identify and assess the situation and to design parenting arrangements that are neither overrestrictive nor under-protective.


2. Online Dispute Resolution, Teletherapy, and Remote-Child Custody Evaluations in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond (Segment 1)

The COVID-19 pandemic has required mental health professionals to consider and use various technologies to conduct alternative dispute resolution, teletherapy, and remote-child custody evaluations. These approaches involve the same skills as in-person procedures and a set of considerations and skills specific to using the technologies. A growing research literature shows these approaches are often as effective as services delivered in-person with adults and children, as well as effective across a broad array of conditions and circumstances. This institute will address the practical considerations used by the presenters to con- duct online dispute resolution, teletherapy, and remote-child custody evaluations.


Institutes 1-2

3:00PM - 4:30PM

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me: Are You Being Conned by a Coercive Controlling Abuser? (Segment 2)

2. Online Dispute Resolution, Teletherapy, and Remote-Child Custody Evaluations in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond (Segment 2)

Institutes 1-2

5:00PM - 6:30PM

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me: Are You Being Conned by a Coercive Controlling Abuser? (Segment 3)

2. Online Dispute Resolution, Teletherapy, and Remote-Child Custody Evaluations in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond (Segment 3)

Workshops 1-2

12:30PM - 2:00PM

1. Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: A Team Model

Resist-refuse dynamics (RRD) interventions require case management among clinicians, parenting coordinators, attorneys, and judges. This presentation will explain an innovative clinical model for overcoming RRD, which emphasizes the development of trust in the intervention team, re-establishment of coordinated coparenting, conflict de-escalation strategies, and management of cognitive distortions and resentment. This session explores interval family intensive interventions as a treatment option, demonstrating how parenting coordinators and child’s attorneys can participate in the intervention team.

2. Things My Cousin Vinnie Taught Me: Trial Skills for Mental Health Professionals and Attorneys

Mental health professionals are increasingly asked to testify in court as evaluators, as experts retained to review a colleague’s work or to provide didactic testimony to the court. The level of preparation by the mental health professional is often critical to the court’s perception of the credibility of the testimony. How well the attorney conducts the crossexamination can impact the trustworthiness of the testimony. This workshop is designed to assist attorneys and mental health professionals with trial skills. Presenters will address body language, courtroom management, testifying, and cross-examination skills

Opening Session

3:00PM - 4:30PM

Stacking the Deck in Favor of Children: What to Do When the World Goes Haywire

Parenting time disputes create challenges for families and professionals, and issues such as resist-refuse dynamics (RRD) and intimate partner violence create a more complex situation. Add to that a dangerous and highly politicized global pandemic, and all bets are off! Join this panel to examine the trials and tribulations of providing effective services to families in conflict when the world goes haywire.


Workshops 3-4

5:00PM - 6:30PM

3. Parenting Time Paradigms Meet the Pandemic

Child custody principles are built around paradigms of continuity and connectedness. But the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts all aspects of family life and the institutions it relies upon. What factors should decision-makers balance in the midst of ever-changing circumstances and health threats? This workshop looks at mismatched households facing issues of health protection, work and school from home, travel obstacles, and connected relationships when all is in flux.

4. Drug and Alcohol Testing and Parenting Agreements in Child Custody Cases

This workshop will review drug and alcohol testing options for managing cases with alleged substance abuse. Professionals will learn available methodologies, detection windows, and limitations to best establish protocols for eliciting important data when making child custody determinations. The presenters will discuss how court orders have been mandated in the past and how they are evolving based on new technology to meet specific parenting and child safety measures, all while upholding the best interests of the child. Techniques for cheating and adulterating specimens will also be explored.

Due to technical difficulties, the recording does not begin until 20 minutes into the session. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Workshops 5-6

12:30PM - 2:00PM

5. Playing Defense: Tips for Designing Custody Assessments to Withstand Attack

Custody evaluators must cope with attacks on the quality of their work, in addition to the many other stressors of forensic practice. After releasing their reports to the court, practitioners may withstand peer reviews and cross-examination that can be frightening and disheartening. In this workshop, participants will learn about four lenses to use to proactively plan and critique their own assessments, and attitudinal shifts that can make the process of being critiqued more tolerable. Practice settings where resources are limited will also be discussed.

6. Teens in the Digital World: What Professionals Need to Know

Youth use technology for nearly all interactions: communication, education, entertainment, and just being out and about. Family law professionals working with families in conflict have a responsibility to understand how technology is being used in their cases, especially those involving children. This workshop will demonstrate technologies that are being used by youth to cause harm, harass, and threaten others. It will explore smartphone technology, location applications, and commonly and uncommonly used social networking sites.

Plenary Session

3:00PM - 4:30PM

Betting on the Voice of the Child in Parenting Disputes

The best interests of children are considered paramount in any parenting dispute, yet there is no clear consensus about how best interests are determined. Consideration of the child’s voice has become standard procedure in most countries, and in many US courts, but assuring the child’s voice has a meaningful place in professionals’ consideration of their best interests is another story. During the global pandemic, the voice of the child seems to have been further diminished as professionals struggle to figure out how to deliver even the most basic services. This panel will examine how to keep children’s voices front and center, regardless of the challenges faced by professionals.

Workshops 7-8

5:00PM - 6:30PM

7. Interviewing Children in Custody Evaluations When There Are Allegations of Abuse or Intimate Partner Violence

While many child custody evaluators include interviews of children over the age of five, the process can become complicated when allegations of intimate partner violence or child abuse are present. Evaluators must be competent in the areas of child development, family dynamics, appropriate interviewing techniques, and trauma-focused approaches. This workshop will review the current literature and provide specific tips and techniques for evaluators to implement in their interview process.


8. Forensic Methods of Gathering Data via Telehealth

Data collection has changed in the wake of COVID-19. This workshop will present the advantages and disadvantages of remotely gathering data via telehealth. The presenters will provide tutorials that demonstrate how to get litigants and collateral contacts to complete signatures, forms, and questionnaires online. Attendees will also learn methods to remotely administer personality assessments.

Workshops 9-10

12:30PM - 2:00PM

9. Encapsulated Delusion? How Do We Identify It and What Do We Do?

Some cases where children resist or refuse access to a parent are fueled by a parent’s unsupported underlying delusional belief about abuse of the child. In this workshop, the presenters will explore the psychological processes that underlie this delusional belief system, describe a screening process, and differentiate cases that are likely to respond to treatment from those that are not. Considering the behaviors and capacities of parents as caretakers, the presenters will propose a system of accountability with concrete goals for the family and for judges to consider in their orders.

10. The Silver Spoon vs. the Spork: Child Custody Evaluations on Any Budget

This workshop will examine the step-by-step process of conducting a child custody evaluation from order through final trial testimony. The foundational elements will be addressed, regardless of the clients’ income level. Participants will learn how to craft a thorough and competent report that meets the needs of the court and the clients. The presenters will explain how to become a skilled child custody evaluator, and how to utilize research and apply ethical principles in practice.

Due to technical difficulties, the last 18 minutes of this video recording are missing.  We apologize for the inconvenience.



Workshops 11-12

3:00PM - 4:30PM

11. Resisting Simplicity to Understand Child Resistance: Alienation Meaning in the Field of Family Law

Initiated by a collaboration among AFCC, NCJFCJ, and the University of Toronto, more than 1,000 family law practitioners responded to an online survey about their views, experiences, and attitudes regarding resistrefuse dynamics (RRD), including parental alienation, unjustified gatekeeping, and estrangement. Participants in this session will review various definitions that have been proposed to explain different forms of RRD. Based on percentage agreements and additional qualifying comments provided by survey participants, the presenter will clarify definitions, address confusion, and look for consensus. The purpose of this session is to clarify the common glossary of terms, without losing the complexity of the various dynamics and factors that can influence a child’s resistance towards parents after separation or divorce.

12. Parenting Coordination During Custody Litigation: Challenges and Opportunities

When, if, and how to use parenting coordination effectively during custody litigation has been widely debated, and little guidance has been available to help courts and lawyers make these decisions. This workshop will present considerations to help guide those determinations, while exploring ethical challenges and risks to children. The presenter will explore the opportunities to help parents move toward settlement, focused thinking, and a functional and sustainable coparenting alliance. AFCC’s 2019 Guidelines for Parenting Coordination will be highlighted as a decision making tool.

Workshops 13-14

5:00PM - 6:30PM

13. Affirming LGBTQ Children in Custody Matters

This workshop will explore the importance of ensuring that LGBTQ children receive affirmation from family and custody proceedings. Presenters will provide a primer of LGBTQ terminology, an explanation of the importance of familial support to the mental health and development of LGBTQ youths, and discussion about the effects of affirming and non-affirming parenting and care on custody evaluations and determinations. This workshop will examine ways that legal and mental health professionals can support children throughout the proceedings to ensure that their identities are being appropriately centered, affirmed, and supported.


14. Decision-Making about Services for Families: Needs, Gaps, Better Models?

Professionals have long struggled with decisions about to which services families should be referred, particularly when family and court resources are limited. This presentation will consider whether there are implicit biases that forensic evaluations are the most appropriate services, assuming the family can afford them, especially given the possibility that these issues will become even more acute in the aftermath of COVID-19. The presenters will identify relevant research and discuss practical strategies that may create more effective alternatives for children and families.

Workshops 15-16

12:30PM - 2:00PM

15. Thinking Differently about the Value of Collateral Information

This workshop examines assumptions guiding the use and validity of information from multiple informants in child custody assessment. Parents view their children in particular settings and make attributions about their behavior based upon factors that are different from other observers. Discrepancies among different observers have often been viewed as a reflection of bias or measurement error and tend to cast doubt on one or both informants. The assumption has been that at least one of the informants has provided unreliable information about the child’s behavior rather than recognizing that different informants’ validity tends to contribute different information.

16. Hearing the Evidence of Children: Rights and Remedies

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child confirms that children are to be given an opportunity to express their views and preferences in legal proceedings affecting them. However, courts have struggled with how to fulfill that obligation. This presentation will explore the various methods employed by courts to ascertain children’s views and preferences, as well as the efficacy of those methods, the evidentiary issues they raise, and their potential impact on traditional therapeutic goals.


Workshops 17-18

3:00PM - 4:30PM

17. Deception and Malingering in Child Custody Cases: Research-Based Strategies

Family court practitioners endeavor to find elusive truths in custody matters. Unfortunately, research has consistently demonstrated that most people are not good at detecting lies, with accuracy rates of 54% just above chance. Experimental and clinical researchers, however, have ascertained that specific interview, testing, and evaluation methods could improve one’s ability to assess the credibility of a client’s claims. This workshop introduces participants to empirically supported cues to deception and malingering, interviewing techniques that elicit cues to deception, and the role of culture in assessing credibility.


18. Safe, Appropriate, and Workable Parenting Plans

This session will focus on safe and appropriate parenting plans in parenting and/or civil protection order cases when domestic violence is present. Presenters will discuss Ohio’s model as it answers the following questions: How do the danger factors impact the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities? How do domestic violence acts relate to the statutory best interest factors? How does the presence of domestic violence impact meaningful allocation of parental rights and responsibilities and enforcement of parenting time arrangements?

Workshops 19-20

5:00PM - 6:30PM

19. A High Conflict Case: Trauma’s Impact on Memory, Children, Parents, and the Courts

It is well-known that children are harmed by exposure to significant conflict when parents separate. However, the traumatic impact on everyone involved has not been dissected and discussed much over the years. This interactive workshop will highlight and discuss ways in which a family’s conflict results in trauma for their child, look at the parents’ behaviors through a trauma-focused lens, and provide tools for navigating bias and the trauma behaviors that arise in high conflict cases.

20. The Right Glasses: Viewing Counterintuitive Conduct in Interpersonal Violence

Assessments of truth, factual determination, and safety all require accurate interpretation of what is seen in cases where interpersonal violence and child abuse are alleged or suspected. Conduct, statements, and evidence have many interpretations. This session will discuss common faults, causing professionals to miss real motives and dangers. Power and control tactics, victimology, and the dynamics of abuse all weigh heavily on the scales of justice when custody is at issue. The law and protection of the weak require that interpretation of conduct be correct. The wrong conclusion may jeopardize the psyche or a life.

AFCC is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict.