Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight (17)

We are proud to recognize Zak Chesson as this quarter's AFCC-MN Member in the Spotlight. Zak is a relative new-comer to the AFCC Minnesota Chapter Board of Directors. He officially joined the Board at the 2015 annual meeting. From a personal standpoint, we know Zak to be well-liked, a "nice guy" with varied interests, and a strong commitment to family and community. From a professional standpoint, other Board members know him to be a great resource to AFCC-MN. His knowledge, experience, and dedication to his work as a Guardian ad Litem bring a unique perspective to the work and mission of our chapter.  

Thanks, Zak, for your willingness to serve on the Board and share your insights with AFCC-MN!

About Zak:

Zak Chesson has been a Guardian ad Litem in the Fourth District since 2005. He initially started as a volunteer GAL in Juvenile Court and moved to Family Court in January of 2007. Today, Zak is primarily in Family Court, but continues to carry a number of cases in Juvenile Court. He is also an ICWA certified Guardian ad Litem and works with the Native American community in his role advocating for children. Zak occasionally does private mediation and PC work. Originally from the Chicago area, he has lived in Minnesota since he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000. His free time is spent with his wife and their 12 year old son, usually carting him from one practice or game to another. Zak is excited to be a part of AFCC.


We are proud to recognize Jennifer Jameson as this quarter's AFCC-MN Member in the Spotlight. Jennifer has been one of the invaluable leaders
of the AFCC-MN Education Committee. The Education Committee is responsible for organizing all the innovative programming that the AFCC-MN has to offer. Without Jennifer's hard-work and dedication, we would not be able to provide our members with the many education opportunities throughout the year. Jennifer's commitment to the organization was recognized at this year's Annual Conference, when she received the Annual President's Award. Thank you Jennifer for your contributions- our organization would not be the same without you. 

About Jennifer

Jennifer Jameson is a staff attorney at Tubman.  She handles a variety of full representation family law cases.  Throughout her 15 years as a family law attorney in private practice, Jennifer consistently volunteered with Tubman’s legal services programs until, about nine months ago, she switched gears from her partnership at McGrann Shea to her current position at Tubman.  Jennifer has been co-chair of the Education Committee at AFCC-MN since November 2013 and member of that committee since 2011.  She is grateful to have been awarded the AFCC-MN President’s Award for 2015 and to be the Member in the Spotlight this quarter.

This month AFCC-MN honors Dr. Beth Harrington as our member in the spotlight.  Beth was a member of the original Minnesota AFCC Coordinating Committee formed in early 2008 for the purpose of establishing a Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.  It was the work of this committee that lead to AFCC-MN obtaining provisional status as a state chapter in July 2008; holding its first annual conference in April 2009; and obtaining chartered chapter status in June 2010.  Beth served as President-Elect from April 2009 until July 2011; President from July 2011 until April 2013; and Past President from April 2013 through July 2015.  One of her first commitments as President was to lead the AFCC-MN board through a comprehensive strategic planning process that resulted in new Vision and Mission Statements; a restructuring of the organization's committees; and specific delegations of responsibilities to those committees.  Beth, we thank you for your commitment to AFCC-MN!

 About Dr. Harrington

Dr. Harrington specializes in family court assessments, dispute resolution, and consultation. She conducts custody and parenting time evaluations, early neutral evaluations, and provides Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services as a mediator, parenting time expeditor, and parenting consultant, She also provides work product reviews and litigation support to attorneys.

She is a long-time member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and past president of the Minnesota Chapter. 





This month AFCC-MN is proud to highlight Dorothy Gause as our member in the spotlight. Dorothy has served on the AFCC MN Board of Directors and the AFCC MN Membership Committee as Chair. 
 She has been very active in promoting AFCC, chapter events and membership in the metro areas as well as in Greater Minnesota.  

Half of Dorothy's practice is in providing custody and parenting time evaluations and serving as a parenting consultant.  She also serves as court-appointed counsel in Washington County, providing service to those who cannot afford representation in child protection proceedings.  

She is devoted to her clients and finds her work rewarding in many ways.

Thank you, Dorothy!

About Dorothy

Dorothy Gause is an attorney in private practice in Stillwater providing custody evaluations and parenting consultant services.  Dorothy also represents parents in child protection proceedings in Washington County.  Dorothy served on the Board of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Minnesota Chapter from 2012-2014.  Additionally, she chaired the Membership Committee and was involved in the Annual Planning Conference Committee. 

 Dorothy graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2003.  She clerked for the Honorable Judge Susan R. Miles in Washington County until 2005.  Dorothy served in the juvenile division of the 10th Judicial District Public Defender’s office from 2005-2006.  Additionally, Dorothy practiced family law as an associate attorney with de Beer & Associates, P.A. from 2006-2007. 

 Dorothy is presently enrolled in St. Mary’s University of Minnesota on a part-time basis seeking her master’s degree in Human Development.  Dorothy loves to cook, travel and spend time with her children, not necessarily in that order. 

This month, we are featuring the other half of our Sponsorship Team, Shannon Bixby-Pankratz. Shannon is entering her fourth year of co-chairing the AFCC-MN Sponsorship Team, along with Victoria Brenner. Every year they have increased the number of
 sponsors and the amount of money raised to support the AFCC-MN programming. Last year, they raised over $10,000, which allows the chapter to offer scholarships, memberships, and allow students to participate in program at no-cost. Thank you to Shannon and Victoria for all their hard work; they are truly leaders and innovators. 

About Shannon

Shannon M. Bixby-Pankratz is an attorney practicing exclusively family law in the Twin Cities area and greater Minnesota.  She is currently a partner with the Minneapolis law firm of Moss & Barnett, where she has practiced for the past eight years.  Her law practice includes: step parent and second parent adoptions, third party custody, paternity, orders for protection, harassment restraining orders, custody and parenting issues, child support, spousal maintenance, property division -ranging from modest to complex and high asset estates, post-dissolution matters, and antenuptial and post-nuptial agreements.  Ms. Bixby-Pankratz is also a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral, available to offer family law mediation, early neutral evaluation (social and financial), parenting coaching and parenting consultant services. 

Ms. Bixby-Pankratz came to the practice of law as a second career, with a prior Masters level emphasis in marriage and family systems, mediation and negotiations work. She is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law.  Before joining Moss & Barnett, Ms. Bixby-Pankratz worked in the criminal court system for eight years and served as a judicial law clerk for nearly two years in family court with the Honorable Judge Daniel H. Mabley.  Ms. Bixby-Pankratz's multidisciplinary background and experiences add substantial value to her work with families and how she approaches her family law practice.  It also provides her with  a deep passion for the work of AFCC and its philosophy.  AFCC brings together multiple disciplines in research, education and practice - allowing us as a group to brainstorm innovative ways to assist families through separation and divorce - with the goal to minimize conflict and the resulting impact of these family circumstances on families, particularly children.

Ms. Bixby-Pankratz has served on the AFCC-MN Annual Conference Planning and Sponsorship Committees for the past three years, and is currently serving again on the Sponsorship Committee.  She periodically writes and presents for Continuing Legal Education programs. Ms. Bixby-Pankratz is an active volunteer, both professionally and personally.  She volunteers with both the Hennepin and Ramsey County family law volunteer mediation programs.  She volunteers as a judge in various mock programs for Hamline and William Mitchell.  She has served as a mentoring attorney with William Mitchell and the William Mitchell Family Law clinic.    Ms. Bixby-Pankratz's personal life involves "hockey and hounds."  Married to the Prior Lake High School head hockey coach, she spends a lot of time in the ice rink. When not in the rink, she is a dedicated volunteer with Secondhand Hounds, a local, non-profit foster-based animal rescue organization, where she volunteers on a weekly basis by managing the rescue office, assisting with intake and training new volunteers, fostering animals, and helping transport the dogs to safety and rescue.


Victoria Brenner was nominated for this month's member in the spotlight for her tireless dedication to AFCC-MN. Victoria is entering her fourth year of co-chairing the AFCC-MN Sponsorship Team, along with Shannon Bixby-Pankratz. Every year they have increased the number of sponsors and the amount of money raised to support the AFCC-MN programming. Last year, they raised over $10,000, which allows the chapter to offer scholarships, memberships, and allow students to participate in program at no-cost. Thank you to Shannon and Victoria for all their hard work; they are truly leaders and innovators. 

About Victoria

Victoria Brenner is an attorney who practices family law and lawyer’s professional responsibility in the Twin Cities. She is a partner with the St. Paul law firm of Collins, Buckley, Sauntry & Haugh.   Ms. Brenner is a proud alumna of the first class to graduate from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, where she was encouraged to practice law in a holistic way and to give back to the bar and the community through professionalism and voluntarism.  The mission of the AFCC to help minimize the negative impact of divorce and separation on the parties and their children ties in with Ms. Brenner’s view of family law. Ms. Brenner handles custody, parenting time, child support, orders for protection, alimony, divorce, post-divorce in the wide spectrum of modest to high asset cases. Ms. Brenner serves as Chair to the Minnesota Justice Foundation, as a delegate for the Ramsey County Bar Association to the Minnesota State Bar Association Assembly. She has served on the AFCC-MN Annual Conference Planning and Sponsorship Committees for the past three years.  She has written and presented Continuing Legal Education courses on Divorces involving Closely Held Businesses, Spousal Maintenance and Attorney Ethics.  Ms. Brenner is also a coach for the Minnesota Youth Ski League.



Mindy Mitnick  is this month’s member in the spotlight because she has been  and continues to be a  leader in promoting the interest of children and families in family court proceedings.  Mhe has trained professionals throughout the country in child development issues as it relates to parenting time schedules and in assessing allegations of sexual abuse in contested custody proceedings.  Her contributions to continuing education on issues relating to child custody/parenting time and forensic work are too numerous to mention.  She has a demonstrated ability to  critique social science research regarding  the interrelationship between child development and parenting time.  This past year, she  has devoted much of her time serving  as a member of the Custody Dialogue Group.  If Minnesota is able to achieve important and necessary revisions to the outdated best interest factors used in custody/parenting time determinations , it will be  due in significant part to the contributions made by Mindy as part of the Custody Dialogue Group. Thanks Mindy for your dedication to AFCC and its mission.

About Mindy

Mindy F. Mitnick is a Licensed Psychologist practicing in Minneapolis. She received a Master of Education from Harvard University and a Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota. She specializes in complex custody, criminal and civil litigation cases, working as an evaluator, Parenting Consultant and expert witness. Ms. Mitnick has trained professionals throughout the country about developmental issues in parenting schedules, effective interventions in high-conflict divorce, assessing allegations of sexual abuse, and the appropriate use of psychological testing. She has been a speaker for the National Child Protection Training Center, Minnesota CLE, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, the Ontario Office of the Children’s Lawyer, and numerous statewide training conferences across the country. Ms. Mitnick served on the Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force on Parental Cooperation and the American Bar Association working group to update guidelines for child witnesses in criminal cases. She served on the AFCC Task Force on Court-Involved Therapy and is a board member of both AFCC and the Minnesota Chapter of AFCC.


Susan M. Gallagher is an attorney in private practice, a Registered Nurse, a Qualified Neutral under Minnesota Rule 114, a Parenting Time Expeditor, a Parenting Consultant, and an Early Neutral Evaluator on the Dakota, Scott, Carver and Ramsey County rosters. Susan is a member of multiple professional organizations, including the AFCC. She has been a member of AFCC since 2003 and a member of the AFCC-MN Chapter since 2006. When asked which of the professional organizations in which she’s involved is her favorite, she states that each organization satisfies particular needs, but that she cannot imagine not being involved with AFCC.

Susan values AFCC for its emphasis on education and research. In Susan’s estimation, AFCC advances the practice of law through its integration of the social sciences into the practice, and its ability to effect change both in the law and in the practice of the law. She views AFCC as instrumental in her ability to assist clients in evolving beyond the immediate situation in which they find themselves.

Susan not only receives fulfillment in her membership with AFCC, but provides tremendous energy and dedication to AFCC-MN. Susan is the current Treasurer of AFCC-MN, and has been the co-chair of the Education Committee for the past three years. Susan is a vocal proponent of AFCC for its collegiality and the opportunity membership provides in being a part of the evolutionary change in the practice of family law and the court.

It is for Susan’s commitment and contribution to AFCC-MN that she has been selected our Member in the Spotlight for November.

About Susan

I am so proud to work with and on behalf of AFCC-MN! AFCC-MN consists of members who are dedicated to the preservation and growth of families in their various forms through advanced research and education. The wonderful attorneys, guardians, mental health professionals, evaluators, neutrals and judicial officers that I am lucky enough to work with exemplify the altruistic nature of this organization – that is the giving back to our profession and the families we represent and assist. Thank you for the honor of being a member in the spotlight!

Susan M. Gallagher is a family law attorney and owner of the Gallagher Law Office, L.L.C. Susan has practiced law for the past twenty one years and has several decades of experience as a Registered Nurse. She is a qualified neutral under the Minn. Rule 114 Family Roster. She works as a mediator, evaluator, parenting consultant, parenting time expeditor and court appointed guardian and arbitrator. She serves on the Executive Board for the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Minnesota Chapter; is a member of AFCC; is a volunteer attorney with the Hennepin County Volunteer Lawyers Network; is on the Minnesota Women Lawyer’s Advisory Board; is a member of the Hospital Review Board for Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and a Master level member of the Warren Burger Inn of Court. Susan is a Minnesota Association for Justice Board of Governors Emeritus. Susan received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Dakota and her juris doctor from William Mitchell College of Law.

Jennifer (Jen) Joseph is this month’s member in the spotlight because she is an exemplar of the how Minnesota chapter strives tries to advance the goals of professionalism and child-focused solutions in family law.  Jen is well-known among her peers in the family law community as for her excellent work  and effectiveness in providing a variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services, including early neutral evaluations, custody/parenting time evaluations, mediation, and parenting consulting.  She is  chair of the Minnesota Chapter’s legislative committee, and has devoted many hours of time as a member of the Custody Dialogue Group.  In this role, she has represented our chapter’s concerns, worked cooperatively with representatives of other stakeholder groups, and has promoted forward-thinking legislation which safeguards the interest of families and children.

About Jennifer 

Jennifer Joseph works with families to develop child-centered solutions to custody and parenting time issues through a variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes.  She provides mediation, child inclusive mediation, custody and parenting time evaluations, parenting consultation/coordination, early neutral evaluations, and parent coaching.  Ms. Joseph’s background as an attorney and former Guardian ad Litem give her broad experience and perspective as she helps parents solve problems by keeping the focus on the best interests of the children.

Ms. Joseph graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School, and has been in private practice since 2004.  She served as a Guardian ad Litem from 2005–2010.  She is also a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Supreme Court.  Ms. Joseph is an active member of both the local and national chapters of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC, and AFCC-MN), and served on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Association of Custody Resolution Specialists. 

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