Vanderpump Rule’s Lala Kent Protests Family Court Practices

For months, social media and reputable news networks alike have been reporting on “Scandoval” and the stars of reality show “Vanderpump Rules.” For those unfamiliar with the scandal, it involves the dramatic break-up of the show’s principals, Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix who ended their nine-year relationship upon Madix discovering that Sandoval and co-star (and Madix’s best friend) Raquel Leviss were having an affair. Since then, it seems that the entire cast of Vanderpump Rules is making head-lines. For example, co-star Lala Kent has been in the news for her outspoken criticism of the Family Court System. As a firm exclusively practicing Family Law in San Jose, California, our team of experienced attorneys at Mello & Pickering, LLP are here to shed some light on one of the practices addressed by Kent in her recent interviews—reunification therapy.

For those unfamiliar with the reality star’s story, Kent and her former partner, Randall Emmett have been embroiled in a contentious custody dispute over their two-year-old daughter, Ocean. The pair split after news broke of Emmett’s infidelity. Since their separation, Kent has given interviews and partaken in protests to shed light on her concerns stemming from her experiences with the family court system. Specifically, Kent has criticized family court practices such as the use of reunification therapy.

Reunification therapy it is a common tool utilized by the courts where there is a complicated dynamic between a child and their parent. Sometimes, there are circumstances where the minor child in a proceeding is unwilling or uncomfortable with spending significant (or sometimes any) period of time with one of their parents. This can be due to several reasons. For example, witnessing or experiencing acts of domestic violence at the hands of that parent; having gone significant periods of time without seeing and/or speaking to that parent; and even in some cases, being alienated from that parent by the parent who has primary care and custody of the child. With older children, this can create a resist and refuse dynamic where the child refuses to see the other parent, even despite Court orders requiring them to spend time with that parent. When faced with these circumstances, the Court may order that the minor child and the non-custodial parent partake in reunification therapy.

So, what is reunification therapy? It is a type of therapy focused on repairing the damaged relationship between a parent and child. Rather than forcing a child to go to the other parent’s home for Court-ordered visits, the parent and child will meet with a selected therapist at a frequency as ordered by the Court (which can sometimes be as recommended by the therapist selected). During the therapy sessions, the therapist will help facilitate a discussion between the parent and child, in an age-appropriate manner, regarding the child’s feelings about the parent. The goal is to reinstate a health parent-child bond for the benefit of the minor child. For some families, reunification therapy is a wonderful tool that helps parents and their children work through feelings that can naturally arise when the family splits into two households. In those families, the parent and child will usually progress from therapeutic visits to typical visitation (i.e., at the parent’s home).

Unfortunately, and because no two families are alike, reunification therapy is not always the best solution. Sometimes, a child is not always receptive to the process. It can also be the case that the child is hesitant to truly participate in the therapy sessions in a meaningful way due to the custodial parent’s emotions pouring over to the child. For example, the child may get the sense that the custodial parent is not happy about the reunification therapy and as such, the minor child may feel that they are betraying the custodial parent if they make progress in therapy with the non-custodial parent. It is imperative to have an experienced Family Law attorney on your team who can help you navigate your options and determine whether reunification therapy is an appropriate fit for your family.

Here at Mello & Pickering, LLP, we have represented countless parents, on both sides of a custody dispute, and have a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to your options regarding custody and visitation. Call (408) 288-7800 for your complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our attorneys to ensure that your rights, and your child’s best interest, are protected.

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