Dear Esteemed AFCC-California Members,

The world generally and the world in which we work can sometimes seem like a very dark place. Extremists shout down those wanting to investigate shades of gray.  Old Manichean ideas of good and evil, winners and losers, sinners and saints, are everywhere. Just read any Yelp review!  I joined AFCC because of its cutting-edge research on children and families going through family dissolution.

I joined because of AFCC’s community of thoughtful, mindful, innovative, and skilled professionals.  I joined because many of us are hoping to create systems other than the winner-and-loser model of our courts. This is no knock on the lawyers who litigate the cases that have to be litigated.  No knock on the experts who support that litigation.  And certainly, no knock on the judges who work tirelessly to do right by those who appear before them, most without representation.  But a system designed to pit parents against one another, and former partners against one another, is a system that in many cases exacerbates the issues that led to the dispute in the first place.  Resources – financial and emotional – are tapped.  Positions hardened.  Rancor and hurt are fueled.  How many of us have said, “There has to a better way”?

The innovations put forward by AFCC over the past 60 years have had an enormous impact on families.  Its model standards and practice guidelines have brought a greater level of professionalism and consistency to the field.  The conferences bring the brightest minds together to share wisdom and break bread and, more recently, discuss alternatives — outside the court and adjacent to it — to the binary, adversarial system.

AFCC’s mission is powerful: “AFCC is an interdisciplinary, international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict.  AFCC promotes 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”.  Many voices at the table with training, excellence, and innovation at its heart.  Indeed, innovation is encouraged.

AFCC started in California.  The California Chapter, the largest in the country, has often led the charge. 

The California Chapter’s 2024 conference in San Francisco is now well behind us, and what a GREAT conference it was!  A huge thanks to our conference co-chairs for San Francisco, Michelene Insalaco, Ken Perlmutter, Deborah Wald and Monica Wiley, who really took to heart the goal of bringing new ideas and new people into the mix. 

We have already started to gear up for our 2025 conference at Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa (save the date, February7-9, 2025): “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow:  Creative Solutions to Reduce Conflict in Families and Build A Brighter Future for Children”.  The Call for Presenters has gone out.  Even if you have never presented before, please consider submitting a proposal for a workshop (1½ hours or 2 hours) or an institute (4 hours).

A heads-up that AFCC-CA is changing it up for 2026. The 2026 annual conference will not be in San Francisco but in Sacramento.  Save the date: February 6-8, 2026. 

Please welcome three new board members, Judge Diane Goodman of Los Angeles, attorney Carlos Olivares from Whittier, and attorney Angelina Ray of Sacramento.  Three great additions to our already superlative board.  I am so impressed by the dedication our Board Members continue to show, working tirelessly to make sure AFCC-CA remains a powerhouse. 

A huge thanks goes to our long-term Executive Director Merry Gladchun who has decided to move on from AFCC-CA in pursuit of new adventures.  We are all so grateful for Merry’s hard work and great spirit.  While we are losing Merry, we are gaining a new Executive Director, the wonderful Peggy Holbrook.  Welcome, Peggy!  Please reach out to Peggy to say “Hi” at our next conference or if you need anything from our Chapter.

AFCC-CA will continue its focus on mentorship so that the critical work done by those working with families can carry forward.  As part of that, we will be reaching out to graduate schools and law schools, encouraging young people to get involved in AFCC.

In 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the protests that arose afterward, AFCC-CA committed itself to a set of goals, many of which we have achieved, with many others still needing work.  More diversity means a greater number of voices heard.  We are also looking to expand the fields that make up our interdisciplinary framework since so many fields touch families:  teachers, doctors, police officers, social workers, clergy.

In line with increasing voices and viewpoints, we are working to grow our membership, with particular attention to the more distant and smaller counties.  In some counties, there is no dedicated family court, but one or two judges who are tasked with handling everything.  AFCC-CA is a trusted source of training.  We can also facilitate connections to create an open pipeline of information and exchange of ideas.

Finally, I’d like to ask all of our members to consider becoming involved in one of our committees.  Committees are a great way to become more deeply engaged in the work of AFCC-CA.  If you are interested, please contact Peggy Holbrook at

Our immediate past president Frank Davis left AFCC-CA in great shape.  As I assume the role of chapter president, I have high hopes for 2024 and 2025.

Dave Blacker, JD, CFLS
Current President of AFCC-CA

David Blacker is a California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist. He handles high asset cases and complex issues of paternity, custody, and business valuation. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Dave was a professional trombonist playing in local salsa, funk and jazz groups. Dave has served on the board of the California Chapter of the Association of the Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) since 2016 and served as Conference Co-Chair for the chapter’s 2020 and 2022 annual conferences. Dave is also the President and Co-Founder of the Center for Separating and Divorcing Families (anticipated opening 2020), which will provide an out of court process to handle, under one roof and for a fixed fee, the legal, emotional and financial needs of families in transition with the goal of minimizing the fallout from family law disputes. Dave also has served as a Settlement Master in San Francisco Superior Court, taught family law courses, and coached high school mock trial students. Dave is the parent of two high schoolers, both proud native San Franciscans. He continues to nurture his artistic spirit by cooking and playing music. He brings both his parenting experience and his creative outlook to his law practice.