The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, a national organization that brings a holistic approach to family law, has authorized the creation of an Indiana chapter.
“This group is the only group I’ve come across that truly attracts and embraces multiple disciplines,” said Rebecca Billick, a family law practitioner and mediator at Andrews Harrell Mann Carmin & Parker P.C. in Bloomington.
Billick, who heads up organizing the chapter, said AFCC welcomes judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, mediators, guardians ad litem and others in the family law arena to discuss how to make the system work best for children and their families.
There are about 140 members of the national organization in Indiana. “We get the support of the national branch in attracting folks for conferences and research and different kinds of networking opportunities,” Billick said. “We hope to have at least one annual conference where we’ll have speakers from all disciplines.”
Along with Billick, the coordinating committee for the Indiana chapter consists of vice chair Christopher Barrows, attorney and
registered domestic relations mediator at Avery & Cheerva LLP; Allen Superior Magistrate Judge Craig Bobay of Fort Wayne; psychologist Frank Choate of Rochester; Steuben Superior Judge William Fee of Angola; psychologist Susan Dwyer of Fort Wayne; Fishers attorney and registered domestic relations mediator Mary Wisehart Phillips of Phillips Attorneys Inc.; and attorney and registered domestic relations mediator John Shanks of Shanks Law Offices & Conflict Resolution Center in Anderson.
The first business meeting for the chapter will take place Aug. 24 at Riley Children’s Hospital at Indiana University Health in conjunction with a day conference presented by the Indiana Association for Infant and Toddler Mental Health.
Dr. Angela Tomlin, a clinical psychologist at Riley, is organizing the preceding conference, “Young Children and the Courts: Process, Proceedings and Players,” with support from Head Start.
She said the conferences were scheduled together with the hope the professionals from various disciplines who work on matters of family law might have an opportunity to learn about the work of others in the field.
“I think great people are trying to consider this and we have a lot of challenges,” Tomlin said. “The legal side and the mental health side are trying to understand each other: Here are the gaps, and here is where we’re trying to improve things.”•