Although much of the early experience of marital work was with individual interviews, there were occasions when I would see a couple together. Usually, these meetings were to try and achieve reconciliation – at that time in my team, the tendency was in cases of dispute about custody of or access to children, for us to see the parents separately. In custody disputes, we were still expected to report on the physical conditions in which it was proposed a child should be brought up and this lended itself to separate visits to each parent’s home. There were also understandable concerns that each party should be free to say what they felt, so that if there were issues of domestic violence or risk to children, there could be open disclosure. These would not have been the only reasons for conducting enquiries in this way, however. It seems to me as I look back that anxiety about the conflict between the couples meant keeping the fight at a safe distance – it was easier to be imagine you were in control of the situation if you saw each party separately!
In reconciliation cases however, you could all imagine you were working together to overcome the conflict.