Support & counselling for highly contentious parents

Strongly divided family conflicts are characterised by a different dynamic. In these families, the emotional problems take centre stage and basic forms of communication between the parties are often only possible to a limited extent or not at all.
If highly contentious parents do not succeed in ending or calming their chronic conflicts, the child/children are at risk of psychological impairment, developmental risks and other lasting problems.

What does highly contentious mean?

In order to fulfil the highly contentious criterion, a number of basic conditions must be met::

  • The child(ren) are no longer the focus of at least one parent,
  • Long-lasting disputes, including court disputes,
  • The level of conflict does not decrease even after a long period of time,
  • Conflicts flare up again and again,
  • often irrational reasons that are no longer comprehensible to third parties,
  • Offers of meditation, counselling and support have so far been unsuccessful,
  • there is a risk of alienation of the child from one parent.

Child welfare at the centre

The work of the ORIBeHo department (abbreviation for “radically child-oriented support and counselling for highly contentious parents”) of the Luxembourg Red Cross generally aims to provide court-initiated counselling for highly contentious parents in the event of separation and divorce, with a focus on the future exercise of their parental responsibility in the best interests of the child. This means that the best interests of the child always take centre stage.

Clarifying the parental conflict system

The aim is to clarify the conflict system through support and counselling. This involves analysing the relationships within the family, the conflictual parenting and its impact on the child(ren), as well as compiling a conflict biography. A family counsellor from the department also assesses whether there is a potential risk to the child’s welfare. The department’s tasks also include supporting the child(ren) during a so-called “change of custody”, i.e. when they move from one parent to the other and live there for a period of time. In an emergency, the ORIBeHo department also provides a telephone on-call service for parents who are in serious conflict.

Procedure and duration of the assistance

The ORIBeHo department works in such a way that, with the support of a family counsellor, individual meetings are held with the parties in family rooms and joint meetings are held with the parents in dispute and with the child(ren). It is important that the latter two meetings and discussions take place in a neutral setting, i.e. in the ORIBeho counselling rooms in Bertrange.

  • Support for a high-conflict family usually lasts between three and four months.
  • After the final meeting, the family can be linked up with other support services if required.
  • In order to stabilise the situation between the parents, several follow-up appointments are often required. Especially if the child refuses to have contact with one parent, whereby contact between parents and child is to be understood as a fundamental right, it requires consistent and transparent enforcement of reminder contacts at a frequency of 2-4 meetings per year.
  • The application for this support is submitted by professionals such as the child protection authority or the family and youth court via the Office national de l’enfance” (ONE) to the ORIBeHo department. The department is in constant dialogue with these authorities.

Specialised personnel

The ORIBeho department employs two family counsellors who have a degree in social pedagogy as well as additional training in family activation management, systemic family therapy and integral trauma therapy. Both are currently completing further training as experts in family court proceedings and as specialists in memory contact.

Get in touch with us


10, Cité Henri Dunant
L-8095 Bertrange


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