The history of the AFCC, growing and adapting to changing cultures and families

In 1963 the first publication to feature an exchange of ideas among the conciliation courts in California. Addressing the importance of the idea was expressed by Judge Roger Alton Pfaff, presiding judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles remarked, “California has become a model for conciliation services as a part of the judicial function for other states to emulate and each year we find jurisdictions creating such services. It may well be that in the not too distant future this little publication may have a wider dissemination with similar courts in similar states.”

Today, in many states including Texas, conciliation courts and the professionals who practice in connection with them are in touch with one another as Judge Pfaff envisioned.

September 7, 1963 was the day conciliation counselors and judges from six California counties assembled at the first AFCC conference. The focus of many working in family courts was the resolution of marital disputes, promoting reconciliation, often times by using trial separation agreements. News of the AFCC and the exchange of ideas spread to other states and AFCC quickly grew to become an international association of a vast group of diverse professionals whose work affects the resolution of family conflict.

The AFCC has been around for several shifts in focus as times have changed

While the focus was reconciliation among men and women when the AFCC was formed in the 1960s, there was a shift in culture and courts in the 1970s when divorce with dignity grew in popularity. Taking the negative stigma out of divorce and out of the language of the family law code reflected a community who wanted to help people facing divorce, to do so with more supportive tools and education to prepare for a significant life change. AFCC members were active in the 1970s, implementing pilot programs to mediate custody and visitation disputes, as well as divorce education workshops.

Mediation grew and spread from coast to coast in the 1980s as AFCC members continued speaking and writing about the positive effects of mediation and the rates of success when families are not returning to court with frequent modification or enforcement issues. Resolving complex differences through mediation made sense to many people who appreciate that individuals experiencing family conflict might often appreciate a process for identifying differences and being able to explore the best options families are willing to accept. The process helps make sense of out of conflict and how to approach it.

AFCC members provide educational tools and resources to increase awareness of family issues

In the 1980s more parents wanted to improve their parenting and family relationship skills through self-help books collected and sold through the AFCC, such as “Parents Are Forever” and “Guide for Stepparents.” Films are also popular and the award-winning family violence picture, “A Family Affair,” was narrated by actor Edward Asner, and exposed the compelling problem of family violence in a way that many had not seen before.

Empowered by joining forces, there were new groups of fathers and divorcing parents who shared their experiences and desires to have an equal voice. The AFCC subjects of discussion involved the needs many of these groups expressed. Financial issues involving child support and concerns about joint parenting time were addressed in collaborative settings such as conferences and task forces where ideas for solutions were presented with the hope of future policy implementation.

Complex family issues took center stage in the 1990s as professionals recognized the challenges to high-conflict families. An example is the study of the impact of mediation on custody disputes involving allegations of domestic violence. As the culture of parents and families involved more people admitting domestic violence and the forms in which it appears, the focus on its prevalence was prioritized among AFCC members in state chapters nationwide.

The 2000s and counting are years of new challenges with the increase of technology and its impact on the lives of parents and family members. From tracking people in their movements and with whom they text or email, new problems in relationships are brought to light along with increased suspicions of others and trust issues. AFCC challenges in meeting the needs of a technology-savvy divorcing generation are met with technology. Through email, websites, social media and mobile devices, AFCC members and groups can stay in touch and share new information about the latest conflict sources and potential roadmaps to resolution.

In the future there is one thing AFCC members anticipate: There will be new events and occurrences in our lives and cultures involving conflict, and the AFCC will be there to ask questions and collaborate in roads to resolutions.

About us: The Texas Chapter of AFCC is an interdisciplinary association of family law judges, attorneys, mediators, evaluators, court administrators, financial planners, and mental health professionals, working in collaboration to further ideas and issues to help resolve family conflict and protect the interests of families and children.

When needing to change the aspects and effects of the adversarial family litigation system by challenging convention and providing opportunities for interdisciplinary communications and training, Texan professionals who work in family law turn to the Texas Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts for the information and resources necessary to change the lives of their clients and colleagues for better. Men, women and children who embrace alternative dispute resolution and want to take their divorce and family law matters in a different direction are encouraged to seek out Texas Chapter AFCC professionals to learn more.

To make contact with a Texas Chapter AFCC professional, please contact communications coordinator, Nick Augustine at (940) 498-2863 or by using the Contact Us page on the Texas Chapter AFCC website. Do not forget to keep up with news and events by engaging with the Texas Chapter social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

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