December 10, 2019 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Congratulations to Dr. Rachel Birnbaum, cross-appointed in Childhood & Social Institutions & Social Work on the publication of a new book, Making Parenting Plans in Canada’s Family Justice System: Challenges, Controversies and the Role of Mental Health Professionals and the acknowledgement of her scholarship and research in family law.  

The book was co-authored with Dr. Nicholas Bala, L.S.M., B.A. (Toronto), J.D. (Queen's), LL.M. (Harvard), a member of the Fellow Royal Society of Canada and recipient of the OBA Award for Excellence in Family Law. Dr. Birnbaum is a Member to the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, in recognition of her research. The Royal Society of Canada is the highest recognized membership for scholars in Arts, Humanities and Sciences in our country.

The book launch was held November 18, 2019, in Toronto as part of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario’s (FDRIO) conference, The Future Is Now - Trends Transforming FDR conference. The FDRIO provided the venue and the reception was sponsored by the publisher, Thomson Reuters.

The book launch “was well-attended, and we were very honoured to have our book showcased in this manner,” said Dr. Birnbaum.  She says writing the book was “an absolute pleasure” as it allowed her to provide new research to assist mental health professionals and lawyers about parenting disputes post-separation. Dr. Birnbaum is uniquely qualified as a social work, law and child’s advocate researcher and instructor at King’s.

The book provides information that is in line with the new Divorce Act (to come into effect July 1, 2020), including updated research on the role of mental health professionals in family court. It also covers the law of expert evidence for mental health professionals, understanding residential moves and relocation and the impact on children and families; understanding family violence and its impact in separation and divorce; children with special needs who require a differentiated parenting plan; and the many ways that children can participle in family disputes that affect their lives.

As part of the conference, Dr. Birnbaum was part of the plenary panel: “The Divorce Act: How Will the Changes Impact FDR.”

The Act comes into effect on July 1, 2020, changing the language of custody and access to parenting orders and parenting time. Dr. Birnbaum presented on understanding the meanings of best interests of children, reducing conflict on children, and some of the new amendments with respect to family violence.

“Not many people are aware of this new Bill and its implications in family law disputes. The new Act is most welcome given the last changes made were almost four decades ago,” says Dr. Birnbaum.

Dr. Birnbaum also spoke on the “Innovations & Developments Enhancing A2J” panel, presenting on “The Family Law Limited Scope Services Project: Why? And Why Now?” a four-part series of surveys of lawyers and judges. Lawyers were also interviewed about their views and experiences providing different types of legal services such as unbundling or providing discreet services rather than clients paying full retainers. This study is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.

“As an academic and applied researcher, I strongly believe in disseminating research results to the broader community that is impacted ‘on the ground’ and to the stakeholders who participate in any research, in addition to scholarly publications. I am more concerned with the broader community of family justice stakeholders including children and families, lawyers, mental health professionals, the courts and government about access to family justice,” says Dr. Birnbaum.

FDRIO also announced Dr Birnbaum was the recipient of the 2019 Crowe Soberman Award of Excellence. Dr. Birnbaum was presented with the award at the November 18, 2019 conference. The award is given out annually by FDRIO to an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the field of family dispute resolution in Ontario. For more information, please visit

“This is a real honour and privilege to be acknowledged with this award on behalf of family justice,” says Dr. Birnbaum.

At King’s, Dr. Birnbaum is cross-appointed in the School of Social Work and in Childhood and Social Institutions. She is also a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.

For more information on Dr. Birnbaum, please visit or

For more information on the conference, please visit