Family Court Review

Cover image for Vol. 52 Issue 3

Edited By: Andrew I. Schepard, Editor-in-Chief, and Robert Emery, Associate Editor

Online ISSN: 1744-1617

Virtual Issue: Fifty Years of Family Court Review - A Practitioner Perspective


Introduction by Christine A. Coates, J.D.
Dispute Resolution Professional and Long-time FCR Reader

I am a Family Court Review (FCR) junky. I love FCR; it is my primary source for professional research, information and inspiration. Although I teach and train, I am, first and foremost, a practitioner. I also read other professional journals, but crave the useful information found in each issue of FCR. The multidisciplinary approach of FCR promotes creativity and understanding of my work and clients. Full Introduction

Wiley Online Library

Introduction | Articles

Dispelling the Stereotype of the “Broken Home”
Isolina Ricci
Family Court Review
Vol.12:2

Crisis Intervention Techniques in Insuring Conciliation Court Survival
Hugh McIsaac
Family Court Review
Vol14:2

Mediated Negotiations in Divorce and Labor Disputes: A Comparison
Kenneth Kressel, Morton Deutsch, Nancy Jaffe, Bruce Tuchman, and Carol Watson
Family Court Review
Vol 15:1

Joint Custody of Children: A Divorce Decision-Making Alternative
Stephen M. Gaddis
Family Court Review
Vol 16:1

Finally There Is a Finally
Meyer Elkin
Family Court Review
Vol 24:2

Mediation and the Dependency Court: The Controversy and Three Courts’ Experiences
Nancy Thoennes
Family Court Review
Vol 29:3

Tailoring the Intervention to the Child in the Separating and Divorced Family
Judith S. Wallerstein
Family Court Review
Vol 29:4

Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference
Madam Justice Bertha Wilson
Family Court Review
Vol 30:1

Parent-Child Relationships in Domestic Violence Families Disputing Custody
Janet R. Johnston and Linda E. G. Campbell
Family Court Review
Vol. 31:3

Emerging Roles of the Family Lawyer: A Challenge for the Courts
Forrest S. Mosten
Family Court Review
Vol 33:2

Parent Education As a Distinct Field of Practice: The Agenda for the Future
Peter Salem, Andrew Schepard, and Stephen W. Schlissel
Family Court Review
Vol 34:1

Children in a Violent World: A Metaphysical Perspective
James Garbarino
Family Court Review
Vol 36:3

The Alienated Child: A Reformulation of Parental Alienation Syndrome
Joan B. Kelly and Janet R. Johnston
Family Court Review
Vol 39:3

“Relationships More Enduring”: Implications of the Troxel Decision for Lesbian and Gay Families
Laura S. Brown
Family Court Review
Vol 41:1

Critical Aspects of Parenting Plans for Young Children: Interjecting Data Into the Debate About Overnights
Marsha Kline Pruett, Rachel Ebling, and Glendessa Insabella
Family Court Review
Vol 42:1

Empirical and Ethical Problems with Custody Recommendations: A Call for Clinical Humility and Judicial Vigilance
Timothy M. Tippins and Jeffrey P. Wittmann
Family Court Review
Vol 43:2

Fatherhood in the Child Support System: An Innovative Problem-Solving Approach to an Old Problem
Honorable Milton C. Lee
Family Court Review
Vol 50:1

Perspectives on Parenting Coordination: Views of Parenting Coordinators, Attorneys, and Judiciary Members
Linda Fieldstone, Mackenzie C. Lee, Jason K. Baker, and James P. McHale
Family Court Review
Vol. 50:3

Wiley Online Library

Introduction | Articles

Introduction by Christine A. Coates, J.D.
Dispute Resolution Professional and Long-time FCR Reader

I am a Family Court Review (FCR) junky. I love FCR; it is my primary source for professional research, information and inspiration. Although I teach and train, I am, first and foremost, a practitioner. I also read other professional journals, but crave the useful information found in each issue of FCR. The multidisciplinary approach of FCR promotes creativity and understanding of my work and clients.

When I was asked to select up to seventeen articles from the 1,778 articles that have appeared in FCR over the past fifty years of the journal, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew it would be a challenging mission, but I was not prepared for how daunting the assignment actually was. I reviewed every issue of the FCR since the first in 1963, and was often diverted from my task by reading entire special issues or controversial articles and opposing responses that appeared in subsequent issues. I read articles that predated my membership in AFCC, ones that I somehow overlooked in my over 20 years of membership, and I reread my favorites.

I was fascinated to discover the hand-in-hand development of family courts and AFCC over the past fifty years. For an in depth exploration of this reciprocal relationship, I refer you to the most recent issue of FCR, Volume 51, Issue 1, the special issue on the 50th anniversary of AFCC and FCR. All of the articles in that issue artfully describe the history of the organization, Family Court Review, the development of substantive areas of practice, and of family courts. One article actually investigated whether the articles published in FCR over the past 50 years have supported the stated core values of the journal.” The authors concluded, as I also did, though more informally, that FCR has maintained its commitment to its core values and goals.

The selection of articles in this special issue is very idiosyncratic. I attempted to include articles of historical importance as well as those that have been almost revolutionary in moving the field forward. Some of the articles have spawned continuing debate; others, which may have been deemed controversial when published, are now considered classics. I selected a few that show the seminal thinking about important issues. If the reader is intrigued by these selections or believes an important article or issue was omitted, I refer you to the FCR archives which Wiley–Blackwell, FCR’s current publisher, has made available through AFCC membership. Read early issues from the 1960s to experience the humble birth of our current international organization and to see the range of topics that these conciliation counselors and judges in California and a few other states considered timely. Many of the articles almost seem contemporary; others reveal the seeds of nascent understanding of family dynamics and legal roles in the courts. I have attempted to include an article or two in this collection that relate to the various disciplines of our members. Not included are major reports, such as the Wingspread Conferences on High Conflict and Domestic Violence or the FLER (Family Law Education Reform Project) Report, even though they all represent some of the most important recent work of our organization.

Explanations for the selections for this issue follow with a brief description of the article and rationale for its inclusion. My goal is to tempt you with these gems of knowledge that are easily available for your perusal.

This special virtual edition begins with a 1974 article, “Dispelling the Stereotype of the ‘Broken Home’,” by Isolina Ricci, one of the early founders of classes for single parents. You will recognize this contributor as the author of the now classic Mom’s House, Dad’s House. Ricci makes the case for banishing the term “broken home” from our discussion of divorce and custody in favor of language that supports the premise of two parents continuing to parent individually and together in separate residences. Her ideas were seminal in our understanding of the needs of single parents and their children and about the effect of language on perceptions and behavior.

In 1976, Hugh McIsaac describes trials and successes when the conciliation courts in Los Angeles were threatened with extinction in “Crisis Intervention Techniques in Insuring Conciliation Court Survival.” McIsaac, a former editor of FCR and a former president of AFCC, describes the challenges that innovative court programs often confront in maintaining funding and viability. This early article contains some practical ideas that could be applied today to protect court programs.

The next selection from 1977, “Mediated Negotiations in Divorce and Labor Disputes: A Comparison”, is one of the earliest articles on family mediation in FCR. I found it fascinating that in order to “sell” mediation in the divorce context, the authors: Kenneth Kressel, Morton Deutsch, Nancy Jaffee, Bruce Tuchman, and Carol Watson, compared the then innovative process of divorce mediation to the already common intervention of labor mediation. The early work of O.J. Coogler, a pioneer in family mediation, is highlighted. Fellow mediators, read this to find our roots.

Promotion of joint custody is showcased in this seminal article by Stephen Gaddis. In “Joint Custody of Children: A Divorce Decision-Making Alternative,” he answers the question, “Does joint custody work?” in the affirmative at a time when most states had not even considered joint custody as an option for parents. His suggested settlement agreement language, now commonplace, was revolutionary in 1978. He even advances the use of mediation-arbitration to resolve parenting disputes when mediation itself was considered innovative.

No collection of articles from the past fifty years of FCR would be complete without an article by Meyer Elkin, the founder and first editor of FCR and one of the founders of AFCC. Elkin is one of the most prolific contributors to FCR. His retirement article from 1986, “Editorial: Finally There is a Finally,” is included for the historical review of the conciliation court movement and Elkin’s thoughts on the impact that its goal of amicable settlement of family law disputes has had on the world.

In 1991, FCR published “Mediation and the Dependency Court: The Controversy and Three Courts’ Experiences”, a widely-cited report on mediation in the juvenile court. Nancy Thoennes, the author of this article, is a respected researcher, a frequent contributor to FCR, and her research has paved the way for the expansion of child protection mediation. There is still much to learn from this article about program design in child protection mediation.

The name of Judith Wallerstein, the author of “Tailoring the Intervention to the Child in the Separating and Divorced Family,” is recognizable to everyone in our field; we all appreciate her early research and many contributions to understanding the needs of children and parents. In 1991, when many courts were providing few services to families, Wallerstein envisioned specialized family court services for children and families, including a focus on “the tormented families who are locked into protracted high conflict.” The challenge of working with high conflict parents remains a hot topic explored at conferences and in court, in private program development today.

In 1992, the first woman Supreme Court Justice in Canada, Madam Justice Bertha Wilson, in “Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference? The Fourth Annual Barbara Betcherman Memorial Lecture,” raised the question of whether female judges will impact our justice system in a positive manner. Madam Justice Wilson’s answer includes statistics, academic discourse and her own musings. Predating the more recent uproar regarding United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s remarks about the difference her appointment as a Latina would make on the bench, this article skillfully weaves together several threads of inquiry to arrive at a thought-provoking answer.

Janet Johnston and Linda Campbell were the Meyer Elkin Essay Contest Winners in 1993 for this groundbreaking article, “Parent-Child Relationships in Domestic Violence Families Disputing Custody.” The suggestion that the then commonly-accepted conceptualization of only one type of domestic violence (male batterer/female victim) was inaccurate stirred much controversy and debate in the domestic violence community. By describing five types of domestic violence, Johnston and Campbell prompted researchers, practitioners and advocates to look more closely at domestic violence and to study the most effective interventions for the various types of domestic violence that are prevalent in family and juvenile courts.

Forrest (Woody) Mosten pioneered the process of “unbundling,” that is, lawyers acting as advisers on limited issues to pro se clients rather than providing full representation as litigators who handle the entire case. In this multi-dimensional article from 1995, “Emerging Roles of the Family Lawyer: A Challenge for the Courts,” Mosten extends the “lawyer as problem-solver” approach to other proactive roles for family lawyers that would benefit the clients, the courts and the family court system. His suggestions are still relevant for the twenty-first century family lawyer.

Although parent education for divorcing and separating parents was not new in 1996 when “Parent Education as a Distinct Field of Practice: The Agenda for the Future” was published, parent ed was gaining widespread support and interest. Peter Salem, current AFCC Executive Director, Andy Schepard, current editor of FCR, and Stephen Schlissel, New York attorney, joined forces to examine the parent education movement and to address the core issues of accountability and professionalism. Their ideas guided many program developers and practitioners in developing best practices for parent education and are still informing the field.

In 1997 AFCC served as the secretariat of the Second World Congress on Family Law and the Rights of Children and Youth which brought over fifteen hundred participants from around the world to San Francisco. I had the privilege to participate in this memorable conference and was inspired and educated on the worldwide needs of children and families. One of the speakers that moved me the most was James Garbarino, a respected academic and author. His talk, reproduced as this article, “Children in a Violent World: A Metaphysical Perspective,” highlights the violence-related trauma that children everywhere are experiencing which diverts them from the path of being fully in touch as human and spiritual beings. Garbarino’s philosophical message differs from those commonly heard at AFCC conferences and is worthy of our continued consideration.

In this leading edge article from 2001, “The Alienated Child: A Reformulation of Parental Alienation Syndrome,” Janet Johnston and Joan B. Kelly posit a need to refocus from the alienating parent to the child who is refusing visitation. As two members of a California self-appointed think tank who studied alienation and produced five articles for the special issue in which this article appeared, the commonly accepted “parental alienation syndrome” was exposed as not adequately addressing the reasons for a child feeling alienated from a parent. Providing guidance on analyzing the situation, the think tank participants adopted the term, “the alienated child,” to describe this phenomenon. A must for anyone interested in children who refuse to visit; this article changed the language of alienation.

Included in a 2003 special issue of FCR on the effects of the United States Supreme Court decision in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), the most important Supreme Court case in recent history in family law, the problems encountered by separating lesbian and gay parents in the family court system were explored in “Relationships More Enduring: Implications of the Troxel Decision for Lesbian and Gay Families.” Laura Brown reported that the LGBT community reacted positively to the Troxel decision; however, she concluded that whether an application of Troxel would aid lesbian and gay parents in family court was still unclear.

Very few issues in the discussion of parenting time have generated as much debate as whether very young children should spend overnights with the non-residential parent. I selected this 2004 article by Marsha Kline Pruett, Rachel Ebling and Glendess Insabella, “Critical Aspects of Parenting Plans for Young Children: Interjecting Data into the Debate about Overnights,” for the authors’ overview of the debate and for their detailed research into the issue. The inclusion of this article is also an example of the commitment of FCR to providing social science with solid research on challenging issues.

Custody evaluators and mental health professionals constitute a major sector of AFCC membership and are a source for enlightening scholarship on the strengths and weaknesses of the custody evaluation process. In “Empirical and Ethical Problems with Custody Recommendations: A Call for Clinical Humility and Judicial Vigilance,” Timothy Tippins and Jeffrey Wittmann opine in 2005 that custody evaluators should not make specific recommendations to the court on custody and visitation matters. Provoking considerable opposing response, this exploration of clinical inference hierarchy is nonetheless fascinating and challenging in its fearlessness in espousing an unpopular position.

Child support enforcement is a perennial problem that has received much attention from the courts, administrative agencies and government. The Honorable Milton C. Lee in “Fatherhood in the Child Support System: An Innovative Problem-Solving Approach to an Old Problem,” in 2012, describes an innovative child support program. Fathers who had been recently released from incarceration were referred to a problem-solving court in the District of Columbia. The special issue in which this article appears was about incarcerated parents, but the description of problem-solving courts and its application in child support payment has the potential for wide-spread application of a problem-solving court model in a number of other challenging areas, such as with high conflict families. Perhaps focusing on changing parents’ perceptions of the court as the chastising enemy to the compassionate provider of individually tailored services is the future of family courts.

Parenting coordination is a recent creation in alternative dispute resolution processes that are used with high conflict families. AFCC has taken the lead in studying, discussing, and training in best practices in parenting coordination. Although the process is being adopted across the United States and internationally, little evidence exists about its efficacy. Linda Fieldstone, Mackenzie C. Lee, Jason K. Baker and James P. McHale in “Perspectives on Parenting Coordination: Views of Parenting Coordinators, Attorneys, and Judiciary Members,” report on one of a series of Florida studies that attempts to shed light on whether parenting coordination is actually helpful to the professionals, parents and the court. Illuminating the issues raised by the research, the authors have contributed to the understanding and growth of the field of parenting coordination.

Well, there you have it: fifty years of FCR in a nutshell. I hope you find these articles as inspiring and thought provoking as I have. I came away with a renewed appreciation for the pioneers who cleared the debris of conventional wisdom and thoughtfully created paths of more humane and child-centered resolution of conflict. For fifty years, FCR has optimistically reported on trends, innovative programs, research and new ideas. Because of FCR and all of the committed professionals who contribute to and depend on it, the road ahead through family conflict appears accessible. Articles

---Christine A. Coates, J.D.

_______________________

1. Michael Saini & Jessica Barnes, A 50-Year Scoping Review of Family Court Review, 51 Fam.Ct. Rev. 1, 74-86 (2013).
2. Available through the AFCC website, AFCCnet.org after logging in.
3. Isolina Ricci, Mom’s House, Dad’s House (rev.), (1980, 1997).
4. Judith S. Wallerstein, Tailoring the Intervention to the Child in the Separating and Divorced Family, 29 Fam Ct. Rev. 4, 457 (1991).

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