Canadian Journal of Family Law

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This article responds to what seems to be a "hot" millennium topic in the family law environment—namely the nature of the relationship between the family lawyer and the client. It proposes a model of family lawyering that puts the relationship with the client explicitly in the foreground of the process and suggests a research regime that could investigate the merits of the model. The authors refer to the model as a "relational model of family lawyering." The model involves family lawyers working within a partnering framework that incorporates attention to the relational aspects of the process, and in particular, to "mentalizing." Mentalizing is a construct that research has found creates space for parties in the family conflict to consider others' perspectives, alternative courses of action, and more constructive methods of approaching the dispute. The authors propose that the relational model could be a way of conceptualizing what family lawyers already do in practice with a number of additional factors that could enhance "best-practice." Adoption of the model could assist family lawyers in attending to some of the psychological needs of the clients in a dispute resolution mode while still fulfilling their requirements as legal advisors. The authors discuss this proposition in the context of implications for education, practice and research.