Mission, Vision and Values

The AFCC is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. AFCC members share a strong commitment to education, innovation, and collaboration in order to benefit communities, empower families, and promote a healthy future for children.

We promote a collaborative approach to serving the needs of children among those who work in and with family law systems, encouraging education, research and innovation and identifying best practices. Our Vision is a justice system in which all professionals work collaboratively through education, support, and access to services to achieve the best possible outcome for children and families.

The AFCC, Ontario Chapter provides opportunities for our members to network and share their interdisciplinary views of family court matters on a local level and within a Canadian context.

Board Of Directors, Executive:

Gerri L. Wong: Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Proud graduate of McGill University and University of Windsor Law School, called to the Bar in 1986. Family law lawyer, civil law mediation roster member, accredited family law mediator and panel agent of the Office of the Children’s lawyer. Sessional instructor at the University of Windsor Law School. Winner of Charles J Clark Award 2013 (recognition of community service) and named one of Canada’s Best Lawyers in 2013 in family law mediation. Appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 2014: Chatham, Ontario as a “two hatter”, criminal and family law.

Dr. Daniel T. Ashbourne is the Executive Director for The London Family Court Clinic (formerly known as The Children & Families in the Justice System). Dr. Ashbourne first arrived to LFCC in 1999 as a Registered Clinical Psychologist in the province of Ontario working in Youth Justice and Family Law matters, and then held the position at LFCC of Director of Clinical Services since January 2002. He brings more than 25 years of clinical expertise, including knowledge related to youth in conflict with the law, the impact of children’s exposure to domestic violence and/or child abuse, best practice methods for parenting capacity and custody & access assessments, as well as the work in the field with children and their parents in the midst of separation and/or divorce challenges. Dr. Ashbourne’s leadership continues a long tradition at LFCC of commitment to children and families through excellence in clinical practice, training and ongoing research in the field. Furthermore, Dr. Ashbourne continues to provide various specialized assessments, in addition to training workshops and consultations related to the overlap of Psychology and the Law, Best Practices for parenting capacity and/or custody & access evaluations, and Appropriate Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques.

Jay McGrory is a Psychologist licensed to practice in the Province of Ontario by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Dr. McGrory has been licensed by the College of Psychologists of Ontario since 1991. He is a member of the Ontario Psychological Association, the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, the Parenting Capacity Assessors Working Group of The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts-Ontario Chapter and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Dr. McGrory has consulted to child welfare agencies and children’s mental health centers through the past twenty years. He has provided workshops on various clinical matters including parenting capacity assessments. Dr. McGrory has completed over six hundred parenting capacity assessments in the past fifteen years. He has been qualified as an expert witness with respect to the provision of psychological assessments and parenting capacity assessments and has appeared in court on numerous occasions. Dr. McGrory also has an interest in sports psychology and is the Team Psychologist with the Windsor Spitfires Hockey Club of the Ontario Hockey League.

Brian Burke is a partner at Epstein Cole LLP. He attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto for undergraduate studies and then Osgoode Hall Law School.

Brian started his career by summering, articling, and then briefly practising corporate and commercial law at the firm Torys in Toronto. After that he practised tax law for several years at the firm Thorsteinssons in Toronto. Brian then decided, over a decade ago, to pursue a career in family law, and he has been with Epstein Cole since 2004.

Brian is involved in various family law justice initiatives, committees, and educational programming. He is a member of the Ontario Court of Justice-Superior Court of Justice Assessments Task Force and for the past three years he has been a member of the organization committee of the Walsh Family Law Negotiation Competition. Brian is regularly invited by various professional organizations to speak to audiences on both substantive and professionalism legal topics.

Shely Polak is a registered social worker and an accredited family mediator practicing in Toronto, Ontario. She is currently in the PhD program at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, specializing in children who resist parental contact post-separation in high conflict separated and divorced families. She is actively involved in research related to children and families in high conflict separation and divorce and involved with the courts. Shely is a clinician in private practice where she provides specialized services related to families impacted by separation and divorce including: custody and access assessments (S.30), family mediation, therapeutic reunification, parenting coordination, and individual (child, adolescent and adult) therapy. Ms. Polak is a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers, Ontario Association of Social Workers, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and the Ontario Association of Family Mediators.

Andrea Himel is a graduate of the joint Law and Social Work program at the University of Toronto, and was called to the Bar in 2000. Principal of Himel Mediation Services, a solution-focused mediation and consultation practice. Board Member (adjudication and mediation) with the Child and Family Services Review Board. On-site mediator at the Milton Court and off-site court mediator at Mediate393/47/311. Panel lawyer with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (custody/ access and child protection). Andrea was previously an associate in the family law department of Torkin, Manes LLP in Toronto.

Board of Directors, Members At Large:

Nicholas Bala is a leading Canadian expert on legal issues related to children, youth and families in the justice system, and also teaches and writes about Contract LawNick obtained his law degrees from Queen’s University (J.D. 1977) and Harvard (LL.M. 1980).  He has been a Professor at the Faculty of Law at Queen’s since 1980, and has also been a Visiting Professor at McGill, Duke and the University of Calgary. He has received teaching awards at Queen’s University, and served as Associate Dean at the Law School for the past five years.

Professor Bala is an expert on Family and Children’s Law, with research focusing on issues related to children and families in the justice system, including: the role of experts in the family justice process; judicial interviews with children and legal representation of children; child welfare law; youth justice and young offenders; parental rights and responsibilities after divorce, including parental alienation; spousal abuse and its effects on children; child witnesses in the criminal courts; the Charter of Rights and the family;  the Hague Convention on Child Abduction; and access to family justice.  Much of his research work is interdisciplinary; he has undertaken many collaborative projects with psychologists, social workers, criminologists and health professionals to better understand the effects of involvement in the justice system on children, youth and families. His work is cited by all levels of court in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada as well as trial and appellate courts across the country, and has also been cited by courts in the USA, England and Australia.

Prof. Bala has also worked with Canada’s National Judicial Institute on education programs for judges in the family and criminal justice fields. He has presented at many conferences and professional education programs for judges, lawyers, probation officers, youth workers, teachers, doctors, psychologists, child welfare workers, and social workers in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Trinidad, Jamaica and Hong Kong.  He won the Queen’s University Prize for Excellence in Research in 2006, and was awarded the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award by the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts in 2008. His contributions to family law research and professional education were recognized in awards from Ontario’s Law Society and the Ontario Bar Association in 2009.  In 2013 Prof. Bala was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.  He is also a member of the Board of the Canadian Research Institute on Law and the Family.

Philip Clay has been a member of the Ontario Court of Justice since January 2013. He sits in Brampton and presides exclusively in family law cases. Justice Clay was called to the Bar in 1983. In 1992 he restricted his practice to family law and family mediation. He was a member of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer panel from 1988 until his appointment. He taught mediation at McMaster University. Justice Clay became an Accredited Family Mediator in 1994. He obtained his CP Med certificate and facilitated Legal Aid settlement conferences. He was a founding member of the Hamilton-Halton Collaborative Law Association. In 2002 he was appointed as a member of Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board and heard civil committal and capacity issues throughout the province.

Michelle is a registered social worker and an Accredited Family Mediator in Hamilton, Ontario.  She holds her Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work degrees.  Michelle has provided therapeutic services to individuals and families for nearly 18 years, in various settings such as child welfare, violence against women sector, and in children’s mental health.  Presently, Michelle is in private practice, offering specialized services to separating and divorced families including, custody and access assessments, parenting plan mediation, parenting coordination, individual therapy and reconciliation therapy.  She is a licensee for the New Ways for Families Program and a consultant on high conflict families with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton.  Michelle has been the Chair of the Hamilton High Conflict Forum since 2012, a Co-Chair of the Parenting Coordination Section of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario.  She is a member of the Legal Aid Ontario Area Committee, Ontario Association Social Workers, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the Ontario Association of Family Mediators.

Prior to being called to the Bar in 2002, Seema completed a MSW and worked as as social worker while attending law school. Since becoming a lawyer, Seema has practised exclusively in the area of family law nd child protection law in Toronto. Seema is also an Accredited Family Law Mediator and Child Protection Mediator, Children’s Lawyer and a Collaborative Family Law lawyer. Seema is the Principal of Jain Family Law and Mediation.

Maxine currently practises family law as a sole practitioner from her office in Newmarket, Ontario.  Previously, she was a partner in the Toronto office of one of Canada’s largest full-service law firms, where she practised in the areas of family law, civil litigation and bankruptcy and insolvency law.  Maxine draws on her broad based legal experience and M.B.A degree in acting for clients in complex financial matters.  Maxine was a member of the executive of the Family Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association for several years.  She is a frequent speaker at programs of continuing education.  Maxine is a graduate of the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, and was called to the bar in 1992.

Information to be provided soon..

Linda holds her Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work degrees, and she is an Accredited Family Mediator. She is registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Linda has provided therapeutic services to separating and divorcing families for many years and in a variety of settings. In addition she has worked in the child welfare sector, and in the area of child development providing services to families of children with neurodevelopmental differences. Presently, Linda is in private practice in Toronto, offering specialized services to separating and divorcing families. She provides therapeutic services to individuals, couples and families; parenting plan mediation; parenting coordination; intervention for parent-child contact problems; and, comprehensive clinical assessments in custody and access disputes. She has been a member of the High Conflict Forum since its inception in 2004 chairing the conference planning committee since 2009. She has been an active member of the Provincial Planning Committee for AFCC-Ontario since 2010. Linda has taught courses in family mediation; and the impact of separation and divorce on children in the context of ‘high conflict’.

Justice Rowsell was educated at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School. He practiced in Durham Region for almost 25 years, prior to his appointment to the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario in 2005. He was a founding member of the Collaborative Family Lawyers of Durham Region, former Director of the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation, former Director of the Durham Region Law Association, former panel member for the Office of Children’s Lawyer, and former member of the Family Law Rules Committee.  He is a member of the AFCC-O, and the Advocates’ Society. He is a frequent presenter in legal education programs.