Friday, March 15, 2024 8:15 AM – 5:00 PM
Conference Center at Waltham Woods

From Theory to Practice: The Challenge of Managing Resist-Refuse Cases In and Out of Court

This is an essential conference for any practitioner — whether clinician, evaluator or lawyer – involved in cases in which a child refuses contact with a parent. Using both a clinical and legal lens, this conference will provide the do’s and don’ts in high-conflict cases with parent-child contact problems as they move through the legal system – from the time parents decide to separate to post-divorce conflict. This conference will address possible ways of resolving the parent-child contact problems without contentious litigation; as well as how to handle court cases from motion practice to trial. Resist-refuse cases appear to be on the rise. It is critical that practitioners keep apprised of the latest developments for dealing with these difficult cases.

Conference Schedule

8:15-8:30 AM: Introduction

8:30-10:30 AM : Keynote Address: Shely Polak Ph.D.

Dr. Polak is on the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Her specialties include strained parent-child relationships and reintegration therapy during postseparation and divorce.  She is the Director of the Mackenzie Clinic in Toronto, a boutique private practice offering clinical and forensic (court involved) services for individuals, including legal representation of children. Dr. Polak served as President of the Ontario Chapter of AFCC and, in 2016, was awarded that chapter’s Nicholas Bala Award for Excellence in Children & Family Law. She is the author or co-author of multiple articles on parent-child contact problems and has presented on that topic at a variety of venues in the United States and Canada, including at various AFCC conferences.

10:30-10:45 AM: Break

10:45 AM -11:30 PM: Keynote continues.

11:30 – 1:00 PM: Dealing with the Parent-Child Disconnect outside of Court.
James Brick, Esq., Michael Childs, Ph.D., Jennifer Durand, Esq., and Tony Pelusi Jr., Moderator: Robin Deutsch, Ph.D.

1:00 – 2:00 PM: Lunch

2:00- 3:30 The Mental Health Expert and the Court.
Hon. Michael Anderson, Hon. Melanie Gargas, and Hon. Claudine Wyner; Moderator, Robin Deutsch, Ph.D.

3:30 – 3:45 PM: Break

3:45– 5:00 PM: Post-Judgment – Ongoing Issues.
Premela Deck, J.D., Ph.D., Nicole Jorge, Esq., and Rachel Hodgman, Esq., Moderator, Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, Ph.D.



Hon. Michael Anderson is an Associate Justice of the Essex Probate and Family Court. He is a 1991 graduate of Suffolk University Law School, J.D. and received his undergraduate degree, B.A. in Political Science, from Trinity College in 1988. Prior to serving on the bench, he had 29 years of practice primarily in the Probate and Family Court and served for 10 years on the Woburn City Council where he was the City Council President. In addition to co-authoring three Supplements to the Handbook of Massachusetts Family Law (1993, 1995 and 2002), he wrote Getting Divorced? Make the Right Decisions (2003), Deer Meadow Publishing.

James Brick Esq. is graduate of the University of Miami Law School. He is a partner in the Needham firm of Brick, Jones, MCBrien, & Hickey. He has tried a variety of family law cases in several Massachusetts counties, but also is certified as a collaborative lawyer by the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Counsel. Attorney Brick is also frequently called to serve as conciliator or arbitrator to bring contested matters to resolution. Mr. Brick has been appointed by the Middlesex Probate and Family Court to serve as a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) and Special Master in numerous family law cases. Attorney Brick has been recognized as one of the top 100 lawyers in Massachusetts for his accomplishments in and out of the courtroom by “Super Lawyers.” He serves on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Inns of Court.

Michael Childs, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist who has worked with children of divorce for over thirty years.  Recently retired, he has been a longstanding member of MAGAL, AFCC, and the APA.  He has worked extensively as both a GAL Category E investigator and as a therapist in cases involving resist/refuse dynamics and other post-divorce adjustment issues, regularly testifying as both a fact and expert witness.  Dr. Childs attended Dartmouth College and the University of Denver, where he trained in child clinical psychology, including work on childhood friendships, loneliness, and the effects of divorce on children. He is also trained in mediation and completed certification in child and family forensics through William James College.  He describes himself as a child-focused family evaluator and therapist.

Premela Deck, LICSW, J.D., Ph.D., is a forensic social worker, family law attorney, educator, and researcher. She runs a group forensic mental health practice in Canton, MA. She, along with her team, employs several interventions for court-involved families, including parent coordination, family and individual therapy, Guardian ad Litem reports/custody evaluations, and support groups for court-involved individuals. Dr. Deck is the Director of the High Conflict Parenting Education Program at William James College which is offered to parents currently involved in litigation. Dr. Deck’s experience as an attorney, clinician, and researcher informs all of her work and allows her to provide a holistic approach to cases that is both evidence-based and client-driven. She provides expert testimony; training and mentorship on high-conflict family dynamics and child custody evaluations; supervision for social workers; and consultation on doctoral research projects. For more information:

Robin Deutsch, Ph.D., provides consultation, mediation, parenting coordination, expert witness services, and has an independent practice in Newton, MA.  She is Board certified in Couple and Family Psychology, serving as President of the American Board of Couple and Family Psychology in 2021 and 2022.  She developed and was the director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law and the Certificate in Child and Family Forensic Issues at William James College, where she is a Professor (ret.) in the Clinical Psychology department.  She is a cofounder of Overcoming Barriers, an organization that provides family-centered services for families in conflict.   Dr. Deutsch teaches throughout North America, Europe and Asia, and has published extensively on issues related to parent-child contact problems, attachment, co-parenting after divorce, high conflict divorce, parenting plans, and parenting coordination.  She is the co-author of 7 Things Your Teenager Won’t Tell You: and How to Talk about Them Anyway (Ballantine, 2005, 2011) and co-editor with Abigail Judge of the book Overcoming Parent-Child Contact Problems: Family-Based Interventions for Resistance, Rejection, Alienation (Oxford, 2016).  Dr. Deutsch was the 2002-2003 President of the Massachusetts chapter of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts  (AFCC), 2008-2009 President of AFCC, and the former Chair of the APA Ethics Committee (2007). She is the 2006 recipient of the American Psychological Association Karl F. Heiser Presidential Award for Advocacy, the 2017 recipient of the Massachusetts Psychological Association Kenneth D. Herman, Ph.D. J.D. Career Contribution Award, and the 2018 recipient of the AFCC John E. Van Duzer Distinguished Service Award.

Jennifer Sevigney Durand, Esq. is the founder of Durand Family Law LLC, in Canton, where she brings over twenty (20) years of experience representing clients in family law cases, such as divorces, custody and parenting disputes, modification actions, and prenuptial agreements.  In addition to her private practice, Attorney Durand provides legal training services to the clinicians at SD Family Services.  She has been named a Massachusetts “Super Lawyer” since 2015.  She has served on the Family Law Section Steering Committee of the Boston Bar Association since 2006.  Attorney Durand is a member of the Massachusetts Chapter of AFCC, previously serving on the Board and as President.  Jennifer is a graduate, magna cum laude, of Providence College and Northeastern University School of Law.

Hon. Melanie Gargas is a 1990 graduate (cum laude) of Suffolk Law School (Evening Division).  Before her appointment as an Associate Justice in Middlesex Probate and Family Court, she was the principal partner in the Boston law firm of Gargas and Associates, P.C., specializing in domestic relations and probate litigation.

Nicole Jorge, Esq. is a graduate of Western New England School of Law. She is an associate in the Boston firm of Casner & Edwards. Attorney Jorge specializes in high conflict divorce, custody, and domestic abuse matters. Her practice encompasses all aspects of domestic relations, including divorce, custody, modification, child support, paternity, and guardianship matters. In 2023, Boston Magazine named her as one of the city’s “Top Lawyers” in Family Law and was named one of the Best Lawyers in America in 2023-24

Rachel Hodgman, Esq. Rachel is a graduate of Barry University School of Law. She is certified as an ARC (attorneys representing children) attorney, a Guardian ad Litem, a Conciliator, is a member of the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Mental Health Litigation Unit representing the interests of Incapacitated/Protected Persons in Guardianship and Conservatorship matters and is a member of the Massachusetts Association of Guardians ad Litem. She accepts Court appointments in Barnstable, Plymouth, Dukes and Nantucket counties. Attorney Hodgman also serves on the Town of Mashpee’s Council on Aging (Secretary) as well as the Board of Directors for the Mashpee Chamber of Commerce (Board Member). She served as the Barnstable County Bar Association’s President from 2022 to 2023; she remains an active and engaged member of the BCBA and hosts/moderates events in the Probate and Family Court

Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, Ph.D. is the Director Clinical and Forensic Services at SD Family Services, a practice specializing in meeting the needs of children and families involved in the family and juvenile courts. She runs a post-doctoral training fellowship in child and family forensics and provides direct evaluation and intervention services.  She consults with judges & attorneys and presents on various forensic topics. Until August of 2023, she was the Director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families at William James College which included an APA-accredited internship, a post-doctoral training program, the Child and Family Forensic Evaluation Service (CAFFES) providing court-ordered evaluations, a certificate program in child and family forensics, and an innovative intervention program for court-referred parents involved in high conflict divorce/child custody proceedings.

Tony Pelusi Jr., Esq. is an attorney, Certified Professional Coactive Coach (CPCC), trained mediator, Collaborative Coach, and a certified and court approved Parenting Coordinator in North Andover.  In his previous career, Mr. Pelusi was a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and civil litigator. As a PC, Attorney Pelusi educates and provides pre- and post-divorce parents with the education, processes, skills, and structures they need as they transition from their intimate partner/spousal/adversarial relationship into their new roles as the managers of a business designed to coparent their children.  He models and facilitates respectful conversation between coparents with an eye toward first developing alignment, and where possible agreement on child related disagreements.  Failing that, Mr. Pelusi effectively and efficiently arbitrates child-related disputes and presents a thoughtful (binding, subject to judicial review) recommendation in the best interest of the children. From 2020-23, Tony co-taught the Parenting Coordination Course at William James College. For more information visit:

Hon. Claudine T. Wyner was appointed associate justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court in April 2017 by Governor Charles D. Baker.  Judge Wyner is assigned to the Hampden Division of the Probate and Family Court.  Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Wyner was a partner in the firm of Marien & Hodge, P.C., where her practice focused on all areas of family law.  She graduated cum laude from Boston University with a B.S. in Special and Elementary Education.  Prior to entering law school, she worked as a 7th and 8th Grade Special Education teacher in Northampton, MA.  She earned her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.  She previously served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Multicultural Community Services a non-profit organization providing residential placements for adults with developmental disabilities.  Judge Wyner previously served on the Family Law Section Council for the Massachusetts Bar Association.  She sits on the Education Committee for the Probate and Family Court. Judge Wyner has presented on many occasions for the Massachusetts Bar Association, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Hampden County Bar Association and other organizations. She is currently the Chair of the Environmental Advisory Committee for the Springfield Court Complex.