Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D.

Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D.

Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D. is a clinical child psychologist. For 45 years, her research, practice, teaching and publications have focused on research in children’s adjustment to divorce, custody and access issues, divorce and custody mediation, applications of child development research to custody and parenting plans, and Parenting Coordination.  She has published more than 130 articles and chapters, including a classic book, Surviving the Breakup:  How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce (Basic Books, 1980). 

Dr. Kelly was Founder and Executive Director of the Northern California Mediation Center for 20 years, and a mediator, forensic expert, custody evaluator, therapist, consultant, and Parenting Coordinator in high conflict custody cases. She was a founding Board member and President of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Family Mediators, and received the Distinguished Mediator Award from AFM, the Distinguished Research Award and the Meyer Elkin Award from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She recently retired. 

Contact Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D.


Articles and Video:

Mediating Families Are Closer Post-Divorce (05/01/20)
Joan Kelly describes a research finding which concluded that families who mediated during the divorce had father's who were significantly more involved in their children's lives twelve years post-mediation.

Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Kids From The Fallout Of A High Conflict Break-Up (06/05/18)
Joan is an author, therapist, mediator, and parenting coordinator with four decades of experience working with high conflict parents who are separating.

Interview with Joan Kelly - Views from the Eye of the Storm (03/27/17)
This is the complete interview by Robert Benjamin with Joan Kelly, well-known clinical psychologist, researcher and founding Executive Director of the Northern California Mediation Center, filmed as part of's 'Views from the Eye of the Storm' Video Series.

Family Mediation Research: Is There Empirical Support for the Field? (An Update) (03/06/17)
The divorce rate began its sharp increase in the early 1960's and more than doubled by the end of the 1970's. This was accompanied by dramatic changes in cultural traditions, societal expectations, and divorce and child custody laws.

Parent Conflict After Separation: Taking a Closer Look (11/27/13)
High conflict is often described as the most damaging factor in the post-separation adjustment of children and adolescents. High conflict that continues in the years after separation is indeed a major risk factor for children’s longer-term well-being. However, more recent research has demonstrated that it is only one of several important factors creating risk and potential detriment. The quality of parenting after separation and divorce, for example, is now recognized as equally important, if not more so, because competent and warm parenting acts as a protective barrier against the effects of high conflict.

Joan Kelly: Describing the book "Surviving the Break-Up" - Video (07/04/10)
Joan Kelly talks about the central themes of her book, "Surviving the Break-Up". These include: impacts on children of different ages, impacts on the parents, reactions to the visiting relationship post-divorce, developmental impacts and behaviors over time.

Joan Kelly: Future of Mediation Unsure - Video (07/02/10)
Joan Kelly discusses her thoughts on the future of mediation. She's generally unsure, but believes the public will seek out more non-adversarial processes to handle conflicts.

Joan Kelly: Collaborative Law vs. Mediation - Video (04/19/10)
Joan Kelly describes a case she mediated and settled after the parents didn't get anywhere with collaborative law.

Joan Kelly: Divorce Research Inspires Start in Mediation - Video (04/02/10)
Joan Kelly describes that her research on divorce and the effects it had on families made her want to become a mediator.

Joan Kelly: Promise of the Field When Just Starting Out - Video (10/26/09)
Joan Kelly describes what she she saw as the inter-disciplinary promise of the family mediation field when the field was first being established.

Joan Kelly: Conflict-Free Environment for Children During Divorce - Video (10/02/09)
Joan Kelly describes how mediation can be a protective factor for children in the divorce process. If parents can engage in and deal with conflict without involving their children, the children will be better off.

Joan Kelly: Use of Facilitative Model in Research - Video (06/02/09)
Joan Kelly explains that while she used a facilitative model while doing her research, she now usually ends up using elements of all the mediation styles: transformative, facilitative, and evaluative.

Book Review: The Healthy Divorce: Keys to Ending Your Marriage While Preserving your Emotional Well-Being (04/10/09)
This book is an updated version of 'Between Love and Hate: A Guide to Civilized Divorce,' originally published in 1992. At that time, I was troubled by the continuing portrayal by the American media and movies of American divorces as destructive, poisonous, hateful processes and behaviors reminiscent of 'War of the Roses,' and widely recommended Lois Gold’s book to mental health and legal professionals and separating partners and spouses to educate them about a better way to separate and divorce.


The Mediators: Views from the Eye of the Storm Vol. I
Views from the Eye of the Storm

Featuring 31 of the most experienced mediators in the world.

This two-hour DVD is a "highlight" film of compelling commentary from pioneers and leaders in the field of mediation.

(2006) ISBN # 1-933857-04-8

This video is also available by online streaming here

DVDs are available for shipment to the United States and Canada. International purchasers are asked to order the online streaming version of this resource at

click here for a larger image
Kelly, Joan
Complete hour-long interview of Joan Kelly by Robert Benjamin.