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Making contact happen in chronic litigation cases: a mentalising approach

Date:11 APR 2016
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Eia Asen and Emma Morris The Anna Freud Centre

This paper describes an innovative approach to assist the outcome of entrenched private law contact and residence disputes where dependent children are caught up in their parents' 'chronic' acrimonious relationship. In these high conflict cases children frequently side with their resident parent and refuse to have direct or indirect contact with the other parent.

Sometimes the children's response to contact or even the prospect of contact is so extreme it can resemble what one might call a 'parent phobia'. Court-appointed experts are often asked to provide opinions about contact for such families.

Here we outline the first of a two-phase 'therapeutic assessment model' developed by a specialist team at the Anna Freud Centre in London. The model is designed to facilitate contact in such cases by enhancing all family members' ability to mentalise themselves and others whilst simultaneously assessing the parents' and children's capacity to change.

The full version of this article appears in the April 2016 issue of Family Law. 

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