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Tracy James
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

IU conference to explore alternative dispute resolution for families in conflict

Nov. 13, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Leading researchers and scholars from social science and legal fields will be at Indiana University Bloomington this week for a conference aimed at learning about and developing better interventions for families in conflict.The conference, "For the Sake of the Children: Advances in Family Dispute Resolution," is co-sponsored by the IU School of Law-Bloomington and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IUB. It will include private seminars for academics who are attempting to refine their research, as well as a public conference Thursday afternoon geared to attorneys, psychologists, social workers, other professionals, students and the community.

Organizers of the conference are Amy G. Applegate, clinical professor and director of the Family and Children Mediation Clinic at the Law School; and Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, Brian D'Onofrio and Jack Bates, faculty members in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences whose research interests include family conflict and causes of psychological and behavioral problems in children.

"We've invited experts from all over the country and even abroad, leading experts in alternative dispute resolution, to help us evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the ADR services we provide to families in conflict," said Applegate, who directs a clinical program in which IU law students, working through local courts, provide pro bono mediation services to families who are unable to pay for this assistance.

Applegate, who has been working with Holtzworth-Munroe, D'Onofrio and Bates over the past year, said the conference represents a significant collaborative effort by IU Law and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences to advance alternative dispute resolution efforts for the benefit of the children and parents in families experiencing conflict.

The free public conference will take place from 3:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday in the Moot Court Room of the IU Law School-Bloomington. Sessions will include:

  • "Divorce Mediation versus Adversary Settlement: The Current Status of Social Science Research," by Robert Emery, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law at the University of Virginia.
  • "Kramer v. Kramer Revisited: Ethical and Practical Considerations for Lawyers and Judges in High Conflict Cases for Represented and Self Represented Parents," Andrew Schepard, professor of law and director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law at Hofstra University.
  • "Views from the Bench: What Works, What Does Not Work and What Else Should the Family Law and Psychology Community Be Developing?" a panel discussion moderated by Steuben County, Ind., Superior Court Judge William Fee, president of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and with Monroe Circuit Judges E. Michael Hoff, Frances Hill, David Welch and Teresa Harper, Monroe Court Commissioner Bret Raper and Owen Circuit Judge Frank Nardi.

The academic working conference brings together a dozen experts from institutions in California, Arizona, Maryland, New York and Virginia, along with the conference organizers from Indiana. Jenn McIntosh of La Trobe University School of Public Health in Australia will also participate in the conference and is providing training for IU law and psychology clinicians in the practice of child-inclusive mediation. The Law School and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences are each paying half the cost of the conference.

Amy Holtzworth-Munroe

Amy Holtzworth-Munroe

Print-Quality Photo

Holtzworth-Munroe, whose research focuses on husband-to-wife violence, said better understanding of family disputes is crucial at a time when 40 percent to 50 percent of U.S. first marriages end in divorce and one million American children a year experience the divorce of their parents. Also, approximately one-third of births are to parents who are not married and who are less likely to stay with their partners than married couples.

Most children don't appear to be significantly harmed by divorce, Holtzworth-Munroe said, but rates of psychological and behavioral problems are about twice as high for children of divorced parents as for children of parents who stay married. Research shows, she said, that children are more likely to have problems if their divorced parents continue to fight, or if effective parenting is disrupted by the split.

The conference this week will bring together researchers and practitioners to address the issues from several perspectives. "We're including judges and legal experts, along with social scientists," Holtzworth-Munroe said. "We think all these groups need to be involved and work together to have the best impact."

For more information on the conference, see Media representatives may arrange to speak to conference organizers by contacting Steve Hinnefeld at 812-856-3488 or or Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or