June 2014: The IRS has revoked the tax exempt status of a the New York Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) for failure to comply with federal tax laws.
According to Guidestar, an organization offering information about non-profit organizations to the public, the New York Chapter of the AFCC: “This organization has not appeared in IRS records for a number of months and may no longer exist.
This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.”
The IRS Form 990 is a tax form that most tax-exempt organizations must file every year. Form 990 provides the IRS with information about the organization’s activities, governance and detailed financial information. Form 990 helps to qualify an organization for tax exempt status. It has not been explained why the New York Chapter of the AFCC has failed to file this document. Non-profits are required to hold regular meetings, and finances are often discussed at these meetings. Non-profits commonly have grant writers, accountants, and financial committees as part of their organization. That the New York Chapter of the AFCC would fail to file Form 990 for 3 years in a row is so unusual that it demands further investigation.
The New York Chapter of the AFCC is a charitable organization that was founded in 2002 and has about 180 members. The AFCC is an organization founded and operated by sitting family court judges and the professionals they work with including lawyers, court administrators and personnel, mental health professionals, mediators, visitation expeditors (etc) . The purpose of the AFCC is to bring these professionals together to improve family court for children and families, especially families in conflict. According to the New York Chapter of the AFCC, “AFCC members are the leading practitioners, researchers, teachers and policymakers in the family court arena…” The AFCC influences family court policies, procedures and even influences new legislation in areas like shared parenting, parental alienation awareness, child custody evaluations and more. The AFCC also offers continuing education classes for these professionals.
The AFCC is a very powerful and politically connected organization, that operates internationally. The Let’s Get Honest blog says about the AFCC, “..it’s a trade organization with a particular ideology on the field of divorce and family. Not everyone shares this ideology — nor should the courts be forced to share it. However, if training and credentialing controls who gets to practice, that’s virtually a private control of public courts…”
We should also consider the testimony and complaints of parents victimized by abuses of power and systematic failures in family court–many cite problems with bias and collusion among the Court and its officers. A common complaint is that parents are referred to services like mediation, psychological testing, therapy or supervised visitation by agencies and individuals the Court has a close relationship to, and its officers have a strong bias toward the recommendation of these select professionals. Some parents say when they sought help from a different, outside agency that they faced reprisal or loss of visitation and/or custody. Other parents say the Court officers actively worked to take away the parent’s right to make decisions and forced them to work with service providers they approved of. The service providers have considerable power of the lives of individual families and if there is a dispute, the judge almost always sides with them. Parents were threatened with sanctions, jail, loss of custody, loss of visitation and forced into mental health therapy/testing if they did not comply. Other parents voiced complaints that when they file complaints against the judge and other court officers or service providers that no action is taken or there is no system to investigate or handle complaints. The collusion within the family court system is real and harms families. That is not to say the AFCC is responsible for this political climate but there is speculation that they may have contributed.
Deborah Beacham (Atlanta), founder of MyAdvocate Center, says, “Maybe these activities don’t rise to the level of a crime. But litigants are bound to perceive misconduct any time judges and the professionals who appear before them go into business together, and those litigants are then court ordered into business relationships with the corporation’s affiliates.”(Read more at http://www.commdiginews.com/life/authorities-take-action-against-company-run-by-ny-family-court-judges-attorneys-19646/#pZH75HfTlCHdyOyY.99)
That the New York Chapter of the AFCC would fail to file such a routine tax document, or have an accountant file for them is so bizarre that it demands further investigation. The Board members of the New York Chapter of the AFCC hold public office or work with the public, the question of possible misconduct extends beyond the AFCC but also into the professional fields in which these Board members practice (family law, family court, psychiatry) etc.
When you read the resumes of the Board Members it is baffling how a group of successful people with high levels of education could simply fail to file this form so vital to their organization: http://afccny.org/board-members/
Elaine Kirsch is a founding member and former vice president of the Board of Directors of the New York State Chapter of the AFCC. State records register the New York State Chapter of the AFCC to her home address. According to her Linked in profile, Elaine has “30 years of law practice, including 12 years of corporate law practice”. Elaine attended Harvard law school and McGill University, earning a BA in economics and math.
Steve Abel is a founding member and former president of the Board of Directors of the New York State Chapter of AFCC. Steve’s name and home address is listed as a contact on public non-profit records. Steve is a family attorney and mediator with more than 40 years experience. http://www.taxexemptworld.com/organization.asp?tn=222639
Co-President Judge Jane Pearl (New York County) was appointed to the New York City Family Court bench in 2000 by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and in 2009 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She is a former Court Attorney Referee and Support Magistrate.
Co-President Karen Rosenthal, Esq. specializes in family law and, “has been selected by my peers to be included in the 2013, 2012 edition of The Best Lawyers in America as well as New York Magazine’s New York Area Top Lawyers in 2013, 2012.” Ms. Rosenthal claims, “I have represented, over the years, hundred of clients, submitted at least that many motions, have argued before many Courts…”
Treasurer Teresa Ombres, Esq. is a graduate of Fordham University and New York Law School. Ms. Ombres states, “she is committed to acting like a human being and helping her clients and adversaries to do the same…”
Parliamentarian Alberto Yohananoff specializes in forensic psychology and as been appointed to the Mental Health Professional Panel, First and Second Judicial Department in the State of New York.
Guidestar indicates that there are currently 13 AFCC chapters still in good standing. Authorities have revoked or involuntarily dissolved AFCC chapters in California, New York, Florida, Kansas, and Illinois. The AFCC also members from 20 countries and 6 continents.
For more on story, and other AFCC scandals, plz read “Authorities take action against company run by NY family court judges, attorneys” by Anne Stevenson, Communities Digital News. Thanks Anne for your hard work in vestigative reporting and research!: http://www.commdiginews.com/life/authorities-take-action-against-company-run-by-ny-family-court-judges-attorneys-19646/#pZH75HfTlCHdyOyY.99
The “Let’s Get Honest” blog has also researched the AFCC: http://familycourtmatters.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/afcc-a-users-manual-intro-and-for-now-some-of-arizona/