Frozen narratives? Post-divorce processes and contact disputes



The aim of this paper is to explore some interactive processes and constraints as adults and children develop new narratives post-divorce. It will look at how adults’ narratives can become more rigid or frozen over time as a result of battles within the legal system, and the effect this can have on children. Dilemmas and contradictions for therapists attempting to bring about change in the context of an assessment will be discussed, as will the challenge of introducing therapeutic ‘understanding-based’ language into an adversarial system organized around ‘evidence-based’ language. The therapeutic work described takes place in the context of court assessments of children whose parents are engaged in disputes over contact. Case vignettes will be used to illustrate the processes described, and dilemmas for therapists will be discussed as they position themselves in relation to conflicting narratives.