In May 2000, Joseph M. Buckner, then Chief District Court Judge for Judicial District 15-B, asked key representatives in the legal and mental health communities to develop local court rules for Chatham and Orange Counties to implement the use of GALs and PCs in high conflict custody cases. In June 2001, he signed Judicial District 15-B’s Custody and Visitation Local Rules that govern the use of Civil District GALs and PCs. It was determined there was the need for a committee to monitor this newly established program in the Judicial District. Judge Buckner asked several members of the original committee to continue to serve the community by overseeing this program. This oversight committee became the first Board of Directors of the Center.
A judicial staff member serves ex officio as liason with the Chief District Judge and provides staff support by tracking the appointment of GALs and PCs in the District, and maintaining the lists of professionals serving as GALs and PCs.
Since tracking began in 2001, there have been many cases where Civil District GALs or parent coordinators were appointed. Judicial District 15-B requires special training to serve as a Civil District GAL or PC. The Center for Cooperative Parenting periodically offers training for new GALs and PCs, as well as advanced training on associated topics.
Jeremy Heuts Atlas, Attorney
Ms. Atlas is a North Carolina native with an undergraduate degree from UNC-CH (‘02). She completed her law degree in 2008 from North Carolina Central University. She is the owner of Jeremy Atlas Law, PLLC. Jeremy’s law practice is focused exclusively on divorce and family law matters.
Jennifer Birch, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
Ms. Birch has been providing therapy services to children, adolescents, and families in the greater Raleigh area since 2008. Jennifer is a Registered Play Therapist and National Certified Counselor. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Religion from Meredith College and Master’s and Educational Specialist Degrees from the University of Alabama. Jennifer has worked with women, adolescents, and children at a women’s counseling center, as well as with severely physically and sexually abused children at a children’s advocacy center. She now provides mental health services in Wake County, NC to children and teens in a private practice setting. Additionally, Jennifer teaches Circle of Security Parenting courses (circleofsecurityinternational.com) for Raleigh nonprofits, and helps parents navigate the joys (and trials) of parenting.
Paul Ennis, Attorney
Prior to law school, Mr. Ennis worked as a Clinic Psychiatric Social Worker at Dorothea Dix Hospital, Raleigh, NC. He is a graduate of Antioch School of Law, Washington, DC (1983), has been licensed to practice law in North Carolina since 1983, and been in private practice in Chapel Hill, NC since January 1984.
Practice for the last number of years has been limited to representation of parents and caretakers in abuse/neglect/dependency cases as well as serving as Guardian ad Litem (GAL) appointments for respondents in incompetency hearings and other civil proceedings as a Rule 17 GAL; also, serve as backup counsel for voluntary commitments of minors and involuntary commitments of adults.
Prior experiences include serving as Attorney Advocate for the Guardian ad Litem Program in Orange County from 1988 to 1997; civil work in Federal District Court, civil motion and trial work in NC District and Superior Courts; commercial arbitration and mediation; appeals, motions and writs (including mandamus and certiorari) in NC Court of Appeals and NC Supreme Court; maintain general practice in criminal and traffic law, and personal injury.
Catherine A. Forneris, Ph.D., JD, Psychologist and Attorney
Dr. Forneris is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Her undergraduate degree is from Syracuse University, and she earned graduate degrees in Biomedical Science and Clinical Psychology from the University at Albany, State University of New York. As a psychologist, she is the President and a board member of the North Carolina Psychological Association, as well as a member of the Continuing Education Committee and the Legislative, Governmental Affairs, and Policy Committee. She has co-authored several research articles and been the lead author on several paper presentations on trauma, PTSD, depression, health care utilization, and women’s health. The primary focus of her current clinical work is cognitive behavioral therapy with adults, including those with personality disorders. She is also a medical co-director of the UNC Hospitals Beacon Child and Family program which provides a variety of services to employees and patients of all ages and their families who are victims of interpersonal violence.
Dr. Forneris completed the part-time Evening Program at North Carolina Central University School of Law, where she received her law degree, with honors, in 2016. She became a member of the North Carolina Bar in 2016. She has a small private practice and works in the areas of estate planning and family law.
Marie Hopper, Attorney
Ms. Hopper is an attorney in private practice at Hopper Cummings, PLLC in Pittsboro, NC. She received her BA from Earlham College (2001) and JD from UNC-Chapel Hill (2004).
Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones, Psy.D. - Psychologist and Certified Mediator
Dr. KKJ has a Master’s in Forensic Psychology and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She manages a group private practice in Durham, NC (KKJ Forensic and Psychological Services), where she supervises a team of mental health providers in the provision of individual, family, and couples’ therapy; reunification therapy; and psychological evaluations, custody evaluations, substance abuse evaluations, and criminal and other civil evaluations. Dr. KKJ is also a certified Family Financial Mediator, Parenting Coordinator, and Guardian Ad Litem. She is trained in Collaborative Divorce as a Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She offers Divorce Counseling, Co-Parenting, and Parenting Plan Consultation.
Shaunis Mercer, Attorney
Ms. Mercer has been practicing law for 17 years. Currently she is thriving at life-work integration working as the Director of Legal Services for Elise Buie Family Law Group, a Family Law Firm based in Seattle, Washington. Shaunis is a Park Scholar who graduated from NC State University in 2002 and UNC Law in 2005. Shaunis enjoys traveling with her family and serving as Vice President of the PTA at Lincoln Heights Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.
Diane Paces-Wiles, MSW, LCSW, Social Worker
Ms. Paces-Wiles earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she focused on work with children and families. She completed her training at the UNC School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinic and the Wakebrook Pediatric Behavior Clinic. Ms. Paces-Wiles works with families on issues including high-conflict divorce, parent-child communication, sibling relations, and positive discipline. She has a passion for helping children and adolescents develop positive lifelong coping skills, and empowering parents to create environments of mutual respect. In her work, Ms. Paces-Wiles draws from a variety of modalities including trauma-informed therapy, play therapy, psychodynamic therapy, motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based therapy. Ms. Paces-Wiles is trained in Triple P positive parenting and Overcoming Barriers Family Intensive Intervention. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
Rebecca A. Poole, Attorney
Phone: (919) 371-539
Rebecca is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist that has practiced exclusively family law for more than a decade. She is the owner of Poole Family Law located in Apex. Rebecca has seen firsthand how destructive litigation can be to a family and she is a strong advocate for resolving disputes outside of the courtroom. Rebecca enjoys helping families through a difficult time in their lives while giving them the legal guidance they need to reshape their family in a respectful and private manner.
Cami Schupp, Attorney
Ms. Schupp is a partner at Schupp & Hamilton, PLLC in Chapel Hill, NC. She handles family law, estate planning and administration, small business matters, and civil litigation. She earned her law degree from North Carolina Central University in 2003 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and Political Science from Clemson University in 1997.