Past Conferences

Conference 2019

Thursday, September 26 & Friday, September 27, 2019

Holiday Inn & Suites Red Deer South



Lonny Balbi, QC

Spousal support is both complicated and confusing. The legislation is not easy to understand; Court decisions from across the country are often conflicting; and our clients do not know what the right answer is.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were intended to simplify the understanding of spousal support and help lawyers, mediators and clients make informed choices. Although the SSAGs have helped, there is still much to be learned in this area of the law.

Lonny Balbi will try to de-mystify this area and provide you with 10 (or more) tips on understanding spousal support.

This session will concentrate on understanding basics, together with advanced ideas to practically help you and your clients. Various case scenarios will be presented and analyzed in order to show a proper implementation of spousal support. The focus will be on both beginner and advanced participants.


Krista Lindstrom

Learn how your clients can:

  • Access 95% of the equity inside their home instead of the traditional 80%
  • Limit the impact of Spousal support and child support when qualifying for a mortgage
  • Use equity instead of income for mortgage qualification
  • Use Spousal support, child support and child tax as income to qualify for a mortgage
  • Include joint debt, lawyer fees, and penalties inside the mortgage transaction
  • Remortgage the home in limited equity situations
  • How self-employed clients can “state” income
  • Come learn how to provide mortgage solutions for your divorcing clients


Michelle Bailey & Catherine Fitzgerald

The Divorce Act

Amendments to the Divorce Act have been passed by Parliament in the form of Bill C-78 and will come into force in the near future. There are significant changes to the Divorce Act as we know it including the following:

• New terminology such as “parenting” and “decision-making responsibility” instead of “custody”

• Imposition of several parental duties; and

• New guidance related to “relocation” of children.

The Family Property Act (Formerly the Matrimonial Property Act)

The long-awaited changes to the MPA will come into effect in January 2020.

The most significant change will see the provisions of the Matrimonial Property Act related to division of property extended to include unmarried parties, the individuals previously known as Adult Interdependent Partners (“AIPS”).

Property Issues for Mediators

Overview of exemptions, corporate valuations and income determination for mediators.

  • Parties who own their own business or who are self employed may present a special set of challenges for a mediator.
  • In this session we hope to highlight what questions to ask when determining the value of a company or the income of a self-employed individual.
  • We will provide you with some tips and tricks and provide some resources to turn to when you need assistance.


The Five Chairs Project

Louise Evans

TED Talk

Since childhood, Louise Evans has had a determination and an enthusiasm for life. Three things have always been dear to her heart: people, travel, and the performing arts. A large part of her happiness today comes from being able to combine all three in her work.

Born in England to Welsh parents, she left home in her early 20s to work in the South of France which marked the beginning of her passion for travel. After France, she moved to Germany. Then, in 1986, she settled in Florence, Italy which she considers her spiritual home.

Her professional journey began in educational organizations offering language and communication training to the corporate world. This suited her well. In this environment, she was able to use the skills she developed in the performing arts. Her move to Italy marked the beginning of her life as an entrepreneur and as a serious world traveler. Her passion for exploring other cultures inspired her to specialize in Cross-Cultural Diversity Management and Global Leadership, which she offers to multinational companies across the world as a facilitator, trainer, and coach. Having visited 75 countries and experienced culture shock three times, Louise enjoys bringing multiple perspectives to the present moment to help people connect across their differences.

Personal development has always been central to Louise’s life. Her desire for constant self- improvement was the driver of her own personal transformation in the presence of some extraordinary teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hahn, Eckhart Tolle of The Power of Now and, Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Non-Violent Communication. These spiritual influencers inspired her to bring her own contribution to the world through her first book 5 Chairs, 5 Choices, a ten-year project created to help leaders, teams, and staff model behaviors for more inclusive workplaces.

Louise’s passion is to work with the human side of organizations. She believes deeply in people’s ability to grow and transform. Louise helps others find the courage to ask themselves the questions they have never asked themselves before so that they can truly excel in their lives. Since 1996, she has dedicated her professional life to developing her training and coaching project The 5 Chairs which is the core of all her professional activities.

Conference 2018

Spring Conference 2018 was a great success. The attendees loved the warmth and energy from Thursday presenter, Judy McCann-Beranger. Judy's classic Newfoundland friendliness and empathy, mixed with professionalism, was a huge hit and she'll be back for an advanced three-day training on Elder Mediation in August.

Friday was a lot of fun with Megan Hunter from the High Conflict Institute and she presented about people with complicated operating systems. At lunchtime, Judge Todd LaRochelle spoke about the effects of compassion fatigue in the legal community.

Conference 2016

The 2016 Conference was once again a joint effort with The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts-Alberta Chapter (AFCC-AB Chapter): Complex Family Systems: Elevating Safety and Managing Risk April 6, 7 & 8 in Ross Glen Hall at Mount Royal University (MRU).

On the evening of Wednesday, April 6, 2016, we hosted a free public seminar with presenter Andrea LaRochelle, "When parents can’t be friends - communication strategies for parents who can’t get along". This was VERY well attended with 67 people - more than we’ve ever seen for one of our public events! For more info:

The main conference began on Thursday, April 7, 2016, with the AFCC-AB Chapter Annual General Meeting and then Jon Graham from Australia presented "Differentiating High Conflict from Domestic Violence. Screening and Risk Assessment in high conflict post separation cases".

We hosted a Wine & Cheese Reception for all the conference attendees and the John Haynes Award for 2016 was presented to the Board and Committee members of the 1995 Board who instituted the designation "Registered Family Mediator (RFM)". See the John Haynes Award page of our site for more details and photos.

The learning continued on Friday, April 8, 2016. The day began with AFMS Annual General Meeting and then attendees were able to choose their sessions for the day. Sharon Smith, Brandi L. Smith and James P. Bateman (Edmonton) presented "Understanding and Applying Family Systems Theory and Structural Family Therapy" and Jon Graham was back with "Safety Planning in High Conflict and Domestic Violence Cases". At lunchtime on Friday, our conference sponsor, the Palix Foundation was represented by Dr. Jeff Chang who spoke about his current research on the New Ways for Families program.

Summary of Presenters

Jon Graham is a nationally accredited mediator, a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDR) and is a clinical supervisor of mediation practice. He has developed an extensive and respected practice in the fields of family law mediation and workplace conflicts and is a highly respected lecturer in mediation practice, and a trainer of mediators. He has also worked with the Australian Institute for Relationship Studies in the writing and teaching of the Vocational Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution. Jon also worked with the Australian Institute for Social Relations in the presentation of the reaccreditation training for Family Dispute Resolution as well as having served on numerous ADR committees with the Family Court and Family Support sector. He has worked with Government, Commercial and Not-for-Profit organisations in the establishment and development of dispute resolution programs and in the resolution of entrenched conflicts and worked with the South Eastern Sydney Area Health in the establishment of a program for internal mediation of staff disputes. Previously a Regional Manager for Relationships Australia NSW, Jon brings a practical understanding of team leadership and achieving client benefits to his management coaching and conflict resolution practice.

Ms. Sharon M. Smith, Registered Psychologist with Creating Solutions Inc. has over 20 years of background in family systems theory. Ms. Smith developed and delivered the first contracted Diversion Intervention Program for Child and Family Services. The Diversion Program was a program to prevent high risk families from open Child and Family Service Authority status. This program was based on the successful home-based family preservation programs Ms. Smith had designed and clinically supervised the delivery of for ten years under contract with Child and Family Service Authority through her work at Creating Solutions. Ms. Smith taught family systems therapy for years for City University’s Masters in Counselling Program. Currently Ms. Smith works with family’s post-divorce providing Practice Note 7 high conflict interventions, is trained in parent coordination services, and is a registered collaborative family law professional.

Ms. Brandi L. Smith, Registered Psychologist with Creating Solutions Inc. and along with her general practice is trained in play and creative therapy modalities for young children. Ms. Smith gained her proficiency through working in Child and Family Services Crisis Intervention and Family Intervention Programs developing safe therapeutic space for children with significant trauma concerns and resistance. Ms. Smith currently works with children of families who are separated, in high conflict post-divorce interventions, and is a registered collaborative family law professional.

Mr. James P. Bateman, Registered Psychologist with Carter Haave Bateman Vandersteen and Vroon. He has been involved in working with children and families for 26 years and has been a Registered Psychologist for eighteen years. Mr. Bateman has provided counselling and assessment services for Alberta Children’s Services, The Solicitor General, for youth and families through a Residential Treatment Facility near Edmonton and individuals and families in the community. Mr. Bateman has experience conducting Practice Note 8 Assessments, and experience working with high conflict families, including post-divorce counselling, Voice of the Child and triage Interventions, and conducting Practice Note 7 Interventions. Mr. Bateman is a member of AFCC, and has co-presented at conferences in Vancouver and Indianapolis. Mr. Bateman joined the IACP in 2014 and has since begun training and providing services in the area of collaborative family law.

Dr. Jeff Chang has practiced as a psychologist and family therapist for over thirty years, and for most of that time, has worked with families in high conflict as a bilateral evaluator, parenting coordinator, and therapist. In 2007, Jeff turned to the dark side and became a professor with Athabasca University. Although he tried to ignore high conflict divorce work in his research and publication agenda, he just couldn't stay away. After reconnecting with members of the family law bar in Medicine Hat, Jeff worked with Medicine Hat Family Services to obtain a grant from the Palix Foundation to conduct a controlled study of the efficacy of New Ways for Families. In addition to his work as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at Athabasca University, Jeff continues to do private practice and work as a part-time clinical supervisor at Calgary Family Therapy Centre. He is a Registered Psychologist and a Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Conference 2015

ALBERTA family MEDIATION SOCIETY (AFMS) and Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Alberta Chapter Joint Conference 2015 Professionals at the crossroads: Helping Families and Children Access the Legal System April 8, 9 &10, 2015 at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton, AB.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Free Parent and Community Talk, Dr. Pamela Ludolph, Shared parenting: Helping your young child thrive

Thursday, April 9, 2015
Dr. Pamela Ludolph and Leslie Ellen Shear - Bringing up Baby - Parenting Plans for Very Young Children
Dr. Nicole Sherren, Norlien Foundation Scientific Director, Brain Architecture

Friday, April 10, 2015
Professor Nicholas Bala - Legal Responses to Alienation & Emotional Abuse of Children in High Conflict Separations
Facilitation of Mock Court Testifying on Behalf of Children: The Professional in Court
Mock Testimony (Family law lawyers Elise Lavigne and Trish Hebert, Judge Nancy Flatters, psychologists Dr. Larry Fong and Dr. Steve Carter assisted Nick Bala)

Conference 2014

ALBERTA family MEDIATION SOCIETY (AFMS) and Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Alberta Chapter Joint Conference 2014 – RESEARCH INFORMED PRACTICE April 10 and 11, 2014 at the Kahanoff Conference Centre in Calgary.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 Bill Eddy
Understanding High-Conflict Personalities
Managing Individual Clients with High-Conflict Personalities
New Ways for Families - Paradigm Shift for High-Conflict Cases
New Ways for Mediation - More Structure & Skills; Less Stress

Friday, April 11, 2014
Norlien Foundation "Core Story of Brain Development"
Alasdair MacKinnon "Resolving Conflict Through Great Communication"
Dr. Sandra Fenton "Transformative Mediation - Techniques for High Conflict Behaviours"
Ian Connop "Mediation, Trauma and Culture: When not to mediate and the art of the possible"
Dr. Lorri Yasenik "Including the Voices of Children of Separation and Divorce in the Legal System"
Family Justice Services "Caseflow Conference Program and the Case Management Counsel Pilot Project"
Glenda Lux/Pam Bell "The Perspectives Program"
Judge Nancy A. Flatters, A Non-sitting Judge, Provincial Court of Alberta, Calgary Family and Youth Court "Thinking about your Thinking"

Conference 2013

AFMS Conference 2013 was a great time with main speakers Michael D. Lang and Dr. Barbara Jo Fidler and workshop leaders Stephanie Dobson, Dr. Larry Fong and Judge Michael Porter, Ret’d. Judge Todd LaRochelle was awarded the John Haynes Memorial Award by past recipients Judge Michael Porter, Ret’d and Geeta Bharadia, QC.

Michael Lang has been mediating family, commercial, public policy and organizational disputes since 1978. He is the founding director of the Master of Arts Program in Conflict Resolution and former President and Board member of the Academy of Family Mediators. Michael served as Editor-in-Chief of Mediation Quarterly (now Conflict Resolution Quarterly) and as a member of its editorial board. Michael has authored a number of articles on mediation practice and is coauthor of The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice, published by Jossey Bass Publishers. In 2012, Mr. Lang received the John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of mediation. This was presented at the ACR Annual Conference Presidential Luncheon.

Dr. Barbara Jo Fidler has been a registered clinical developmental psychologist since 1987. She is an accredited mediator practicing in Ontario, Canada. She maintains a private practice and is a founding member of Family Solutions, a team devoted to working with separated and divorced families. Dr. Fidler is a practicing therapist, mediator, arbitrator, parenting coordinator, and case consultant to child protection agencies and other professionals. She has been actively involved in the development and training of parenting coordination services and was appointed to the AFCC Task Force that was responsible for developing guidelines and standards of practice.

Stephanie Dobson is a Collaborative Family Lawyer and a Registered Family Mediator (AFMS) who focuses her practice on these processes to assist clients to minimize the destruction of divorce. Stephanie utilizes the latest technology in her boardroom to deliver highly effective and efficient services for her clients. She has "set down the pen", opting instead to use mindmapping software to create a highly effective and uber-organized set of notes which continue to develop each meeting. This Workshop enabled attendees to (1) understand the concept of mindmapping as an invaluable tool in the boardroom, (2) be able to effectively record minutes and brainstorm solutions in settlement conferences, and (3) improve efficiencies by integrating technology into the boardroom.

Dr. Larry Fong is a Registered Family Mediator and Registered Parenting Coordinator and Arbitrator (AFMS), Registered Psychologist, a Member of the Canadian Psychological Association and an Associate Member of the American Psychological Association. His leadership skills are noted by his appointments as Past President of the Alberta Family Mediation Society, Family Mediation Canada, the Psychologists Association of Alberta and the College of Alberta Psychologists. He is a founding member of the Association for Conflict Resolution and a board member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. His workshop taught skills for dealing with diversity.

Judge Michael Porter is a lawyer and former judge with over 40 years’ experience as both. He sat in the Family, Civil and Criminal divisions of the Alberta Provincial Court until 1997 when he returned to active Law Society membership and began his practice as a Chartered Mediator and Arbitrator. Michael is a Registered Family Mediator and a member of both the Alberta Family Mediation Society, and Family Mediation Canada. He specializes in divorce and family mediation. Michael Porter's true passion is conflict resolution through innovative mediation techniques. In his Workshop, he taught how to write mediation reports in a more concise and effective manner.

Conference 2012

The AFMS 2012 Annual Conference: LEARNING TOGETHER was held Friday, April 20, 2012 at the Matrix Hotel in Edmonton. Speakers Dr. Julie Macfarlane (Ethical Practice in Private Dispute Resolution, Special Challenges and Tools for Mediators and Advocates, and Cultural Competency in Private Dispute Resolution) and Dr. Arnold Shienvold (Those Questions We Have... Exploring Challenges in our Craft) presented.

Dr. Julie Macfarlane

Dr. Julie Macfarlane is a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor. Dr. Macfarlane has researched and written extensively on dispute resolution and, in particular, the role of lawyers in that process. Her bestselling 2008 book The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law (University of British Columbia Press) is based on hundreds of personal interviews with lawyers and their clients. It has been the focus of dozens of workshops conducted by Dr. Macfarlane in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. In 2005, she was the first Canadian recipient of the International Academy of Mediators’ Award of Excellence, presented annually to an individual mediation practitioner.

Dr. Macfarlane is the editor of Dispute Resolution: Readings and Case Studies (Emond Montgomery) a student text used widely in ADR courses in Canadian law schools which has now been published in its 3rd edition. Dr. Macfarlane has just completed a four year empirical research project examining the use of Islamic family law principles and values in divorce processes conducted by third parties in North American mosques. Islamic Divorce in North America: Choosing a Shari’a Path in a Secular Society will be published by Oxford University Press in April, 2012.

Dr. Arnold Shienvold

Dr. Arnold Shienvold has a Master of Arts degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Alabama. He specialized in child clinical psychology and completed his internship at the Ohio State University Hospital.

Dr. Shienvold is a practicing Psychologist in Pennsylvania. His practice has an emphasis on families and juveniles, mediations, parenting coordination, psychotherapy and teaching/training. Dr. Shienvold is the former President of the Academy of Family Mediators and the Association for Conflict Resolution. He is the incoming President of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and a member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

Dr. Shienvold has conducted workshops and seminars throughout North America for judges, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, and mediators. He is in demand to give instruction in the areas of forensic evaluative processes, personality disorders, attachment theory and alienated children.

Conference 2011

The AFMS Conference 2011 was held at the Delta Bow Valley hotel in downtown Calgary on March 31 and April 1, 2011. The schedule included the Honourable Heather A. Lamoureux (QC, P.C.J., CMed.) with a highly interactive presentation examining the aetiology of conflict, cognitive barriers to conflict resolution, personality types in conflict, interest based dialogue to resolve conflict. There was lots of group discussion, laughter and playing with Play-Doh!

Our panel discussion led by Dr. Jim Pender had Geeta Bharadia, Lorri Yasenik, Pat Blocksom and Eileen Ailon discussing family mediation, parenting coordination and arbitration.

Brian Thwaits "So One Brain Said To The Other Brain..." had everyone using both sides of their brains and laughing out loud. His provocative and entertaining presentation gave those three-pound organs inside our heads an adjustment that we'll never forget. The way we use our brains, of course, has a tremendous influence on the way we think, learn and communicate. In fact, using brain-friendly strategies can have an immediate and powerful impact on just about everything we do - both personally and professionally!