Spring 2016, Issue 2


As most readers know, the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists (ACFLS) has been around for more than thirty-five years. The association has grown to about 650 members and has built a solid reputation for its work in the family law arena. ACFLS honors outstanding family law bench officers and practitioners. We provide top-notch educational programs through each of our chapters (Bay Area, Sacramento, and Orange County), as well as through our outreach programs to less populated counties, and of course our annual Spring Seminar, touted as among the very best family law continuing education programs in the state.

We address family law legislation and, in fact, we have been very successful stepping in to remedy bad law and make good law better, sometimes when other venerable institutions cannot, because we have the advantage of being a private association. We have gotten important cases published or depublished. Our amici committee keeps a close watch on family law cases up for review and when appropriate, submits persuasive briefs on behalf of our members.

We publish the Family Law Specialist, a quarterly scholarly journal to address important and timely issues relevant to our practice. We maintain a video library so members and bench officers can access high quality educational presentations at their convenience. The ACFLS Listserv is a busy exchange among Certified Family Law Specialists who share interesting articles and use one another as sounding boards when faced with thorny issues or unusual questions in a case. Our website is good, and getting better, as a resource for our members.

Over the years, ACFLS has been led by some luminaries in family law. To start the list is to omit and offend most of them, but we have been led by the likes of such great family law lawyers and educators as Steve Adams, Garrett Dailey, and Ron Granberg. We’ve benefitted from the brilliance of Leslie Ellen Shear, the steady counsel of Joe Bell, and more recently, the legislative mastery of Diane Wasznicky, the cohesive team building of Lynette Berg Robe, and the “get-things-done” effectiveness of President Jill Barr. Sterling Myers has served so long and so well, we’ve named an award in his honor.

As the years roll by, we all do our part to improve family law practice for our members, and to improve the law for California families who likely do not even know we exist. In time, we are replaced by new leaders who carry on the work, improving our association and the things we do. But should there be more to our legacy?

Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis is among our association’s most ardent supporters. A CFLS and AAML Fellow himself, he is an outstanding family law judge in Los Angeles County, and known throughout the state for his expertise and excellent communication skills as he teaches us and works with us through all manner of associations and enterprises. In 2014, Judge Lewis suggested that ACFLS should be thinking about a larger legacy and doing something to positively impact not just our own members, but all those who come in contact with California family law. He pledged his own money to the cause, and we took up the challenge.

ACFLS made grants to family law-related nonprofits in 2014 and 2015. Then, under the direction of President Jill Barr and the Board of Directors, Past President Joe Bell spearheaded the effort to create what is now the ACFLS Charitable Foundation, Inc., an entirely separate entity from ACFLS, but with the full support and cooperation of ACFLS. Our articles of incorporation are completed, first officers and directors chosen, by-laws written, and we are awaiting IRS approval of our 501(c)(3) status so that donations to the foundation will be tax deductible.

The foundation’s mission is “…to solicit donations and to raise funds for the purpose of making monetary grants to persons and/or entities who are working to enhance access to justice, to provide family law-related education, and/or to improve the California family law process for affected persons, families, or groups in need, and to carry on other charitable activities associated with these goals as determined by the Board of Directors and allowed by law.”

So we now have a non-profit foundation supported by ACFLS! And we want you to be a part of it! Our initial effort is to encourage you to donate an annual amount equal to one billable hour of your time. ACFLS has granted $5,000 in seed money to the foundation, and the ACFLS Charitable Foundation Board of Directors (not the ACFLS Board) has agreed that we will pitch in to match that amount. The foundation hopes to begin giving grants to deserving persons and entities this year, but we want to do bigger and better things. A special announcement about our new foundation was made at the Spring Seminar, and you should expect fun fund-raising activities in the coming months and years.

The ACFLS Charitable Foundation Board of Directors includes President Joe Bell, Vice President Mary Molinaro, Secretary Lynette Berg Robe, CFO JB Rizzo, and the following Directors: Jill Barr, Dianne Fetzer, John Hodson, Seth Kramer, and Sherry Peterson. Please contact any of us for further information or to donate. And as you already so often do, open your hearts and your wallets, and lend us your best ideas. Charity begins at home, and if the family of Certified Family Law Specialists will pitch in, we expect to make a real difference in California family law, and in people’s lives. Thank you for your support of this exciting new venture!