AFCC-MD Inaugural Newsletter – Maryland Chapter – January 2019

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Letter From The President 

Happy New Year!


As we bring in the year 2019, we also bring in the 5th year of the Maryland Chapter of AFCC. It is hard to believe. Time has marched on, as it always does no matter how many times the sky falls, and lo and behold — we find ourselves part of a real live, earnest non-profit organization that seeks to serve all Maryland family law professionals of every stripe, and, most importantly, all Maryland families of separation and divorce.

At this five-year mark, then, I thought it would make sense to take stock of what we have accomplished these first foundational years. Let me outline the few key policy decisions that have driven the development of the Chapter’s organizational and operational structure:

First, the Board early on dedicated its reach to all of Maryland, not just high-density areas such as Montgomery and Prince Georges counties. The Board also determined that to be the most relevant to the most members it must establish a grassroots’ organizing mechanism that will allow the Chapter to set goals and priorities according to the needs and interests of the
membership.

To reach these goals, the Board piloted its Ambassador Program which provides concrete and realistic opportunities for statewide participation in our Chapter’s educational programs. This is how it works: The chapter strives to appoint two ambassadors from each of the judicial circuits who will convene a circuit committee consisting of AFCC members within the same circuit. Ideally each committee will include at least one member from each county or region of that circuit and include members from multiple disciplines. Ambassadors will conduct circuit-wide educational events and host discussions that will not only promote collaboration, education and innovation all over the state, but will give those who attend these events an individual and collective voice on the same subjects. This feedback and data will be synthesized and submitted by the Ambassador Board to the Maryland Chapter Board of Directors for consideration when setting goals and priorities for the Chapter.

To date, we sponsored an educational event in Hagerstown for the 4th judicial circuit. Continue reading the newsletter for a testimonial on that particular roadshow from the 4th circuit Ambassador, Brian Kane.

Next, recognizing that most members and other family law professionals cannot attend the AFCC National Conference, we decided to incorporate its themes in our annual educational seminar. For example, last year the National AFCC Conference theme was “Compassionate Family Court Systems: The Role of Trauma-Informed Jurisprudence.” Taking our cues from there, our annual educational seminar and subsequent roadshows focused on the most severe, under-identified and underreported form of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and its Impact on Children. The Maryland Chapter put on an amazing cutting-edge program led by nationally recognized and regional experts: “Coercive Control: A Multidisciplinary Skills-Based Training for Judges, Family Court Administrators, Lawyers and Mental Health Professionals”.


The program’s specific focus was the little known and under-researched topic of the impact on children who live in coercive controlling environments. We were able to have with us the creators of SAFeR, a systematic approach to decision making in IPV-related family law matters, who presented on their highly regarded system-wide approach to screening, assessing and responding to Intimate Partner Violence.

Third, the Board set the ever-important goal of working on Access to Justice (A2J) issues for all families in the state of Maryland. We have had preliminary interviews with people involved in A2J in Maryland and have established a starting point whereby the Maryland Chapter can survey best practices and encourage wider acceptance of the use of social science literature in family law disputes in Maryland. We acknowledge that many novel and innovative family interventions or practices encouraged by the literature are not currently available to families who do not have the resources to pay for attorneys or experts necessary to implement best practices in family law cases. Ironically, many innovations can be cost effective in the long run, since traditional litigation and court settlements do not often address the dynamics in these families, which cause the greatest concerns. Therefore, these families continually use the court system to resolve ongoing issues in a piece-meal fashion. This ultimately results in more cost, more time, more anxiety and conflict in these families and can contribute to negative outcomes for everyone. It is my intention to focus more closely on this issue in 2019.

It is my hope that these initiatives will help the members of the Maryland Chapter of the AFCC achieve the founding goals of the AFCC by incorporating into our practices an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to solving the very difficult problems facing our clients. And I hope that the Ambassador program will allow direct participation by a large number of our members, to ultimately bring about meaningful changes to Maryland’s domestic law policies, procedures, laws and societal outlooks. Much remains to be done. With your individual help and commitment, I am certain we will make significant progress in the very near future.

Linda A. Delaney

President

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