The role of the mental health practitioner in divorce and custody litigation

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Two elements have been isolated as having a profound effect on the adjustment of children and families to post-divorce life. These are the hostility expressed and experienced before, during and after the divorce, and the losses experienced as a result of the final settlement terms. Based on a review of the historical development of family law and the more recent reforms adopted throughout the Western World, the present shortfalls of the South African system of family law in providing for the needs of children and families in divorce have been identified. A model of dissolution is presented which aims primarily at the reduction of the hostility and loss thus experienced. This includes the evaluation and updating of the 'best interests' standard used by the courts for arriving at custody/access settlements and a detailed discussion of the role played by the mental health professional at each stage of the dissolution process. The roles explored here include that of counsellor and facilitator in the pre-divorce, mediation and post-divorce stages; and the role of investigator/consultant and expert witness in the court process.

Bibliography: pages 189-208.