" "

Reform Conference Speaker Biographies

The Experts

We have a terrific lineup of experts who will be presenting, participating in panel discussions and moderating workshops during the Family Law Reform Conference. Learn more about who is coming here.


Speakers

Malin Bergström, PhD

Dr. Bergström is a developmental psychologist with the Division of Reproductive Health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. She has 20 years of experience as a child psychologist. In the 1990’s she started working with separated parents and was struck by the difficulties fathers met when trying to get custody of their children. In 1998 the family legislation in Sweden changed and Dr. Bergström worked together with judges and lawyers to establish what was in the best interest of the child from a psychological perspective. Since receiving her PhD, she has conducted epidemiological studies and has led The Elvis project, on children’s health and well-being in shared parenting. Her focus has been on school aged children and adolescents, but she is now shifting to focus on babies and preschoolers. She is also active in the general field of childhood and developmental psychology as a clinician and writer.

William S. Comanor, PhD

William S. Comanor is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and also Professor of Health Services in the UCLA School of Public Health. At UCLA, he serves as Director of the UCLA Research Program in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy and directs a seminar on pharmaceutical economics. At UCSB, he is the past Director of the MA Program in Economics and regularly teaches a course in Antitrust Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and was a post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of California, he was on the faculty of both Harvard and Stanford Universities. He has authored and edited 5 books and over 100 professional articles in economics; and was designated a Distinguished Fellow of the Industrial Organization Society in 2003. In addition to his academic positions, Dr. Comanor has served twice with the federal antitrust enforcement agencies in Washington, DC. He served as Special Economic Assistant to the head of the Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice in 1965-66, and also as Chief Economist and Director of the Bureau of Economics, U.S. Federal Trade Commission from 1978 to 1980.

Ned Holstein, MD

Ned Holstein graduated from Harvard and then earned a master’s degree in psychology from MIT. He then went to medical school and graduated from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in NYC. He specialized at first in Internal Medicine, and later in Preventive Medicine. He is recognized as one of the foremost physicians in his field of environmental effects on human health. Ned is the divorced and re-married father of three adult children, and the grandfather of three boys. He also has two stepsons. He founded National Parents Organization (originally named Fathers and Families) in 1998 and currently serves as Chairman of the Board. It is now the largest family court reform organization in the world. He brings a variety of experiences to family court reform: a graduate degree in psychology; the practice of medicine; medical research experience and associate editor of a medical journal; activism against the Vietnam War; for civil rights, for safer workplaces, and for broader access to health care; small business owner; service on the Board of his religious institution; and continual involvement in controversial environmental issues.

Susan Settenbrino, Esq.

Susan Settenbrino has been an attorney for over twenty years. She is a former appellate trial prosecutor, adjunct Asst. Professor of business law, radio host, and author. As an attorney in private practice Ms. Settenbrino specialized in complex litigation, which included family law matters, and fraud. She is admitted to the US Tax Court, the Eastern and Southern. District Courts, has presented a case to the Supreme Court of the United States concerning arbitration, and she has written articles concerning arbitration. She has also served on numerous committees including committees concerning judicial ethics. Susan is also the author of the recently published book “Unchecked Power Guide: The New York State Court System: A Look at Entrenched Power, Politics, and Over $2 Billion of New York State Funding – Compromising Justice – for “Just Us”.

Joe Sorge

Joe directed the Divorce Corp movie and wrote the companion book. He became interested in the subject of divorce after experiencing firsthand the complexities of the family law system. Although his personal experience was less devastating than that of the film’s victims, he spent countless days in family court witnessing the callous, inefficient, and biased manner in which the court, and its associated professionals, treated average citizens. This experience moved him to organize this reform conference and continue raising awareness about the problems in family court through the Family Law Report. Before he began writing and filmmaking, Joe earned a B.S. degree from M.I.T., and an M.D degree from Harvard, was a professor of molecular biology at The Scripps Research Institute, and founded a biotechnology company, Stratagene, which he took public and later sold to a large medical supply company.

Anne Stevenson

Anne Stevenson is a nationally acclaimed writer, policy analyst and advisor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tufts University and attended Suffolk University School of Law. Stevenson’s experience includes working directly with various international, national and local leaders, government offices, law firms, campaigns, and nonprofit organizations to provide support, strategic advice and grant writing services to leaders seeking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of various publicly funded programs. Her featured interviews and commentary on politics, health and human services, disability rights, gender, employment, housing, and the justice system have appeared in numerous national news outlets and publications, including the Huffington Post, Washington Times, Communities Digital News, The Hill, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, US Conference of Mayors, FOX, NECN, and others.

Colbern C. Stuart, III, J.D.

Cole Stuart is a parent, lawyer, legal activist, former partner at a large international law firm, and a tireless family court reformer. Two decades of trial and appellate work in highly technical legal matters in state and federal courts, and numerous engagements with abuse of authority both inside and outside of the courtroom have honed an irrepressible dedication to equal justice and restraint of institutional power. He co-founded California Coalition for Families and Children with other divorced parents in 2009 to provide “litigant-side” legal support and advocacy and domestic dispute industry reform. In 2013 California Coalition filed a racketeering and civil rights lawsuit against family court judges, psychologists, and divorce lawyers in United States District Court for the Southern District of California. The case is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on key family court issues of judicial immunity and the legal adequacy of racketeering claims against the divorce industry. California Coalition has developed resources and tools for parents, children, the public, and the ethical lawyers engaging the behemoth divorce industry at a website, WeightierMatter.com.

Panelists

Dr. Craig Childress

Dr. Childress is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of parent-child conflict, ADHD-spectrum disorders, and angry-oppositional disorders of childhood. Dr. Childress has developed a reformulation for the construct of “parental alienation” in high-conflict divorce from within standard and established psychological principles and constructs, centering on recognizable patterns of distortions within the attachment system, and he has written extensively on this reformulation of an attachment-based model for “parental alienation” on his website and blog. Dr. Childress was the Clinical Director for a children’s assessment and treatment center at California State University, San Bernardino and he was the Clinical Director for a FEMA/DOJ project to develop a national model for the psychological assessment of juvenile firesetting behavior. Dr. Childress currently maintains a private practice in Pasadena, California.

Professor Jim Dwyer

Professor Dwyer has taught family law at the William & Mary School of Law since 2000, after teaching law at the Chicago-Kent and University of Wyoming law schools. Prior to teaching, he worked in New York State Family Court as a Law Guardian for children and as Assigned Counsel for parents in a range of domestic relations and child protection matters. He is the author of a family law textbook entitled Family Law: Theoretical, Comparative, and Social Science Perspectives; five monographs, including The Relationship Rights of Children (Cambridge University Press 2006); and dozens of articles analyzing legal issues affecting children in families.

David Heleniak, Esq.

David Heleniak, Esq. has been a practicing civil litigation attorney since 1999. In 2004, he received his MA in Theological and Religious Studies from Drew University. He is a writer, focusing on constitutional law, judicial behavior, and the religious aspects of the State, and an occasional constitutional litigator. He gained recognition on the issue of domestic violence restraining orders with his 2005 law review article “The New Star Chamber: The New Jersey Family Court and the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.” More recently, in the case Crespo vs. Crespo, he won a landmark decision in which the Honorable Francis Schultz of Hudson County ruled that the criteria for a final restraining order must be “clear and convincing evidence” rather than a “preponderance of the evidence.” (Unfortunately, the decision was overturned on appeal.) Since then, his article “Erring on the Side of Hidden Harm: The Granting of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders” was published by the peer-reviewed journal Partner Abuse. He currently serves as the vice president of RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting), a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of the nation’s approach to solving domestic violence.

Ron B. Palmer

Ron B Palmer is an author, lecturer, speaker, and constitutional scholar. He comes to this effort as an accomplished expert in technology management and operations frameworks and standards as applied in the world’s largest corporations. He brings to this field a fresh approach and a fresh vision unshaped by law school conditioning. He sees things as they are and reads the constitutions, statutes, and court opinions without the institutionalized biases and prejudices taught in law schools by professors who have been doing the same old thing for hundreds of years. Ron has a proven track record of fixing broken systems and optimizing inefficient systems on massive scales.

As Fix Family Court’s President, constitutional scholar and visionary, Ron’s goal is to create a world where getting divorced doesn’t mean losing your child.

Dr. Joyanna Silberg

Joyanna Silberg is President of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence, and Senior Consultant for childhood trauma at Sheppard Pratt Health System. Her private practice specializes in child sexual abuse and is author of The Child Survivor: Healing Developmental Trauma and Dissociation.

Moderators

Professor Dale Margolin Cecka

Professor Dale Margolin Cecka is Director of the Richmond School of Law Family Law Clinic and teaches and writes in the area of family law. Professor Cecka’s scholarship focuses on child welfare issues, youth aging out of foster care, and the constitutional rights of parents, particularly those who are mentally disabled, in child protective proceedings. Prior to joining the Richmond Law faculty, Professor Cecka was a Skadden Fellow in the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society in New York and then a Clinical Teaching Fellow at the St. John’s University School of Law Family Law Clinic. For her contributions in the area of family law generally, and foster care specifically, Professor Cecka was awarded the FACES of Virginia Families Empowerment Award in 2009.

David S. DeLugas, Esq.

David S. DeLugas, Esq. is a parent and the Founder and Executive Director of the National Association of Parents, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable member association, that is the voice in the USA for all parents, mothers and fathers, married and unmarried, and that uses only the U. S. Constitution as the basis for its positions on such parents’ rights issues as a child “unattended” at a playground and the drafting of parenting plans and the attendant custody issues. David is also a family law attorney, parenting coordinator, mediator and guardian ad litem. He earned his B.A. from Duke University and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Early in his legal career, David was with Thompson Coburn’s St. Louis office and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton’s Atlanta office. A frequent radio talk show guest on issues of parents’ rights, he reinforces that parents are not required to be perfect to have the right under our Constitution to be present in his or her child’s life and to decide how to raise his or her child, so long as not causing harm to the child shown by clear and convincing evidence.

Stephen Erickson, Esq

Steve is a full time professional family mediator and founder of Erickson Mediation Institute. He is a licensed attorney who gave up the practice of family law in 1980 to work full-time as a mediator because he realized he could not, in good conscience, continue to represent one member of a family against another member of the family. He was one of the early pioneers in the field of family and divorce mediation, having started his practice in 1977. He has taught as an adjunct professor at several law schools and is the co-author of five books on family and divorce mediation. Steve is a frequent speaker on family court reform issues and is one of the founding members of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators where he chairs its Standards and Ethics Committee. He has written extensively about the need to move divorce out of the adversarial system and in addition to mediating, he teaches mediation and negotiations skills to both professionals and students.

Alan Frisher, CDFATM

As the author of his book, “Divorcing the System,” Alan is considered an expert by his peers on the laws surrounding alimony, and on the alimony reform movement in Florida. Alan has published numerous articles and his efforts regarding alimony reform have been written about by USA Today, the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Sun Sentinel, Florida Today, the Lakeland Ledger, and many other local
publications. He has also appeared on the Anderson Cooper show in NYC. Alan is a Certified as a Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFATM*).

Steve Hitner

Steve Hitner is a businessman and entrepreneur who started the movement for alimony reform in Massachusetts in 2005 following his own divorce and unjust alimony ruling. The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Group was born when Steve convinced a lawyer friend to draft an alimony reform bill. When the bill died on arrival at the statehouse, he started a website and began accumulating horror stories. In September 2011 after years of work, alimony reform legislation was signed into law in Massachusetts that has become a model for reform legislation in other states.

Lisa Y.S. West, Esq

Lisa Y.S. West, Esq. is a family law attorney practicing primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a principle with and the founding member of The West Firm, PC. Prior to establishing The West Firm, Ms. West was a city court judge in Atlanta, a position preceded by tenures as a staff attorney for the Eleventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals and for the Supreme Court of Georgia, and as a litigation attorney with a private law firm. She is an honors graduate from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and is certified to practice law in the states of Georgia and Texas. Throughout her practice of family law, Ms. West has represented a number of clients in cases that have garnered national attention, including Tameka Raymond in her highly publicized custody case against her ex-husband, entertainer Usher Raymond. Ms. West has been a outspoken critic of the problems plaguing family courts in Georgia – speaking, writing and opining on the issue in a myriad of forums. She has also founded The Analytics Board, a non-profit company that obtains and analyzes data on issues relevant to family courts in Georgia, and is working to effect change in these family courts through case appeal, legislative awareness, public and consumer education, and incumbent election removal.