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When Divorces Fail: Disillusionment, Destructivity, and High-Conflict Divorce
Dr. Arthur Leonoff
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Softcover / Sep 2021
9781538153727 (ISBN-10: 1538153726)
Family Mediation
reg price: $51.00 our price: $ 48.45
240 pages
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This book provides a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the origin and the root causes of high conflict divorce. Through rich case studies, the author then points the way towards remediation as well as making specific recommendations for the legal and mental health professions. Counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers and judges that regularly contend with high conflict divorce will benefit from drawing from this new approach in their practice.


Arthur Leonoff writes about when divorces fail in a discerning, compassionate manner that reflects his extensive forensic experience, his psychoanalytic and socially engaged mind, and his fearless devotion to addressing a relational problem that features destructivity and an absence of empathy and ethics. Through clinical stories that bring the disturbing experience of high-conflict divorce alive, he provides the reader with psychological understanding and pragmatic approaches to intervention. He offers mental health professionals and family law specialists, as well as the general public an understandable and constructive deep dive into a very complex matter.
Harriett L. Wolfe, president, International Psychoanalytical Association and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, UCSF

In his third book, When Divorces Fail: Disillusionment, Destructivity, and High-Conflict Divorce, Dr. Leonoff offers deep insight into the genesis of severe high conflict divorce and its transgenerational impact. Illustrating his theory with case summaries that will resonate strongly with every mental health and legal professional who works with this challenging population, Dr. Leonoff explains the unexplained. This book is an absolute must-read for every family court judge, family lawyer, mediator, arbitrator, and parenting coordinator who has experienced the astonishment, dismay, frustration, and sense of failure working with high conflict individuals. Readers will appreciate why some of the legal structures we currently use to support and manage high conflict parties, including some family dispute resolution processes and case management systems, are ineffective in containing the destructive behaviour we so often witness in these divorces. In the end, Dr. Leonoff shares his compelling ideas about where we might go from here.
Kathryn d’Artois, mediator, d'Artois Mediation Inc.

Leonoff draws on a wealth of experience in working with high conflict separating couples to explore the trauma and complexities of these most challenging cases. He relates the disillusionment and destructive behavior of parents to their own childhoods, and to the devastation it causes for their children. This book provides important insights and practical advice for family justice and mental health professionals.
Nicholas Bala, Distinguished University Professor of Law, Queen’s University, Canada

Table of Contents:


Author’s Note


1 High Conflict: An Ethical Dilemma

2 The Nature of Destructiveness

3 Divorce: A Crisis of Disillusionment

4 Disillusionment Therapy

5 Love in the Age of Divorce

6 Those Who Cannot Love: Destructive Personalities

7 In Pursuit of an Ethical Divorce: What This Means for High Conflict

8 Confronting the Nihilism of High Conflict

9 Traumatic Conflict Disorder

10 Implications for Legal, Judicial, and Mental Health Services

11 Tabling High Conflict: On the Path to Ethics


About the Author:

Arthur Leonoff is a psychologist and psychoanalyst whose clinical practice extends over forty years. His work includes extensive involvement as a family law assessor and expert court witness. He is the coauthor of Guide to Custody and Access Assessments and The Ethical Divorce. A supervising and training analyst with the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society, Dr. Leonoff has published numerous articles on psychoanalysis. He is a teacher, supervisor, and former board member of the International Psychoanalytic Association and remains an active contributor both nationally and internationally. Dr. Leonoff is a frequent speaker to both legal and mental health communities.

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