The Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law (CECFL)

The Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law (CECFL) recognizes the life-changing decisions that are made when children and families come before Courts. The Center promotes multidisciplinary professional education, training and research to support informed professional practice, effective prevention and intervention, and thoughtful jurisprudence.

The Center focuses on a variety of issues that affect children and families who are involved with the legal system including families in conflict, intimate partner violence, child maltreatment and neglect, divorce, juvenile justice and children with mental and educational disabilities.

The Center is able to provide an array of services, including professional education, training and development; evaluation services; professional consultation to mental health providers, attorneys, judges, custody evaluators, parenting coordinators, court personnel and social service workers; psychoeducation for parents; advocacy and advocacy support and research.

Certificate in Child and Family Forensics

William James College is proud to present a Certificate in Child and Family Forensics. Courses can be taken individually or as part of the Certificate in Child and Family Forensics. Each course provides 2 Academic Credits or 28 Continuing Education Credits and is offered in a blended learning format, consisting of a 4-week online course and a required "weekend-in-residence" at our campus in Newton, MA. 

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Child and Family Evaluation Services - CAFES

William James College is proud to present the Child and Family Evaluation Service (CAFES). A forensic service that provides forensic psychological evaluations that are prepared by psychologists and/or post-doctoral psychology fellows under close supervision of highly qualified and experienced doctoral-level professionals. 

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High Conflict Co-Parenting Online Course

Learn the nuts and bolts of how to work with the whole family. From intake and contracting, to the role of the court and aftercare planning, our expert team will share their knowledge and experience working with these families. Modules will address how to work with each individual family member, with parent-child and parent-parent dyads and with the whole family. Learn more and register here.

Current Research

Current research projects of the Center include: The Children of Divorce Project which involves a prospective study of high-conflict divorcing families who, at the direction of the Probate Court, are to be evaluated by a Guardian ad Litem/custody evaluator. The study's focus is to gain a deeper understanding of how litigious divorce affects the psychosocial adjustment of children, how it places children at risk and what factors contribute to positive outcomes in children.

The High Conflict Parenting Program Project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a nine-week 27-hour co-parenting divorce class mandated by the Probate and Family Court to promote positive change among co-parenting partners.

About Jessica P Greenwald OBrien PhD

Dr. Jessica P. Greenwald O’Brien is the Director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law. She has practiced in the field of child and family forensic psychology for the past 25 years, in both the family and juvenile courts of Massachusetts. Her forensic evaluation practice with youth and families includes child custody, guardianship, relocation matters within the family courts and child welfare/child protection and delinquency matters in the juvenile court. She consults with attorneys and courts on topics of trauma and child maltreatment impacts on attachment, child development, intimate partner violence, parenting, delinquent behavior and risk, and mental health functioning of children and parents involved in the legal system. She teaches and trains other psychologists as well as legal professionals in the field. She serves on the certification committee of the Division of Forensic Mental Health for juvenile court clinicians, and mentors certification candidates.  Additionally, she has worked with teachers, school specialists, mental health professionals, and administrators to augment trauma-sensitivity in schools.

Dr. Greenwald O’Brien received an AB in psychology with honors at the University of Michigan and then earned her doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology at the University of Nebraska in 1993. Her post-doctoral training in trauma and family forensics took place through the Victims of Violence Program at The Cambridge Hospital and the Children and the Law Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, both of the Harvard Medical School.

Advisory Board

James Gamble, JD, New York, NY 

Hon. Gail Garinger, Boston, MA 

Hon. Martha Grace, (ret.), Worcester, MA 

Hon. Christina Harms, (ret.), Newton, MA 

Shirley Higuchi, JD, Washington, DC 

Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD, Newton, MA 

Gerald Koocher, PhD, Chicago, IL 

William Levine, JD, Westwood, MA 

Michael Perlin JD, New York, NY


For information about programs, training, and consultation, please contact Dr. Jessica P. Greenwald O'Brien at jessica_gobrien@williamjames.edu.