With the wisdom of hindsight and more experience, it is likely that the ‘shuttle diplomacy’ approach to work with warring couples contained:
- An unconscious fear of the violence of conflicts locked within breaking marriages, a kind of intuitive sense that splitting couples were like splitting atoms. This fear needs to be treated with respect. All too often, the frightening violence that can be unleashed within intimate relationships, notably the real dangers of domestic violence, have been disregarded.
- A struggle to reconcile the responsibility of adults for their own private lives and for their family, with the judicial nature of a justice system. As an officer of the court, we were expected to give expert advice to Judges and Magistrates that would help them make a judicial decision where parties could not agree. If we became too absorbed in the family dynamics, unable to keep some emotional distance, we could find we were simply reflecting the family’s chaos and providing no assistance to the Court. This is not to say that keeping the parties separate was as necessary to achieve that emotional distance as I sometimes felt but the tension was a real one.