The subjects covered in this book are so wide-ranging that it reads more like a collection of articles, albeit all generally related to the theme of parents’ capacity to change within the timescales needed by the child.

Written by a variety of professionals working with children and young people, the chapters include discussions of attachment theory, the consequences of abuse and neglect, the voice of the child, parental drug and alcohol problems, and the impact of neurodevelopment disorders and disabilities on children.

There are a few stand-out chapters which make this book worth a read for any family lawyer.

The first is Louise Michelle Bomber’s look at ‘Parents’ Capacity to Change and the Impact upon the Child in School’. Given that the ways in which a child going through familial difficulties can present in school are not often considered in any great depth by family lawyers, this offered interesting insights.

Capacity to Change: Understanding and Assessing a Parent’s Capacity to Change within the Timescales of the Child

£55, Jordans Publishing

While ‘The Challenge of Collaborative Practice in Parenting Assessments’ by Caroline Pipe and Kathy Richardson focuses on the value of incorporating systemic theory into the practice of parenting assessments by social workers, the authors’ insights have a broader relevance for family lawyers. For example, the suggestions that professionals who work with families develop a more reflective approach and look at how they relate to families, checking that they do not become ‘ensnared in patterns of relating governed by disrespect and distrust’ are interesting lessons for family lawyers.

Finally, ‘Capacity to Change: Private Law Coalface’ by Ursula Rice offers an interesting commentary on intractable disputes between parents and some strategies to deal with these most difficult of cases. In particular, the section ‘Helping the Helper’ contains recommendations including training for family practitioners in psychology, and reflective supervision – that is, providing additional support to practitioners so they avoid giving ‘distorted advice’ to a client due to issues such as the practioner’s over-involvement in disputes. Indeed, her conclusion neatly summarises the problems: ‘many lawyers collude with their clients, through ignorance, not malice, in the emotional harm of children by allowing the legal forum to be used as an extension of the argument, without challenge to the client of some of the underpinning premises of the client’s instructions. The children in these proceedings deserve a system and an approach that is more robust.’

Annmarie Carvalho is an associate and family mediator at Farrer & Co