In any case involving custody and visitation, whether it be a Dissolution of Marriage or Parentage action, the Court’s primary concern when addressing this issue is what is in the best interest of the child. Barring exceptional circumstances, it is generally the Court’s view that it is best for the child to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents. Where such a determination is made, the Court will generally make orders for a visitation schedule that provides both parents with meaningful time with the minor child. However, in some cases, it may be difficult to enforce those visitation orders where a child has a strained or distant relationship with the visiting parent. In these cases, the Court may determine that engaging the parent and child in reunification therapy is the best first step toward ensuring that the visitation schedule is ultimately enforced. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of reunification therapy, this article will hopefully shed some light on the topic.
Reunification therapy is essentially meant to repair and/or strengthen the child-parent bond so that the child ultimately feels more comfortable with outside visits. Reunification therapy are visits with a licensed therapist, whose goal is to assist the parent and child in working through any difficulties they might be experiencing in their relationship with one another. Generally, the therapist will start out by meeting with the child and parent individually to get to know both participants and understand their needs and concerns. This is especially important for the child who will need to develop trust in the therapist. Once the initial meetings have taken place, the therapist will bring in both the parent and the child to meet jointly. How the appointment is run depends entirely on the therapist. However, it is not uncommon for the therapist to guide the discussion by asking questions so as to help facilitate conversations between the parent and child. What is discussed can range from case to case. Sometimes topics can be as easy as an everyday conversation about how school is going, what activities the child is engaged to, and other days the therapist might try to focus more on the relationship between the child and parent. Many clients ask the question of how long they can expect to engage in this process before visitation takes place outside of a therapeutic setting. This truly depends and is either up to the parties (if they can agree on a duration) or the Court where such visits have been ordered.
As any parent going through divorce or a custody case knows, it can be a very difficult transition for the children in particular. Therefore, engaging the assistance of an expert specializing in these issues can be of extreme help to the family as they navigate the new waters ahead of them. Ultimately, the hope is to help the parents reassure the child that despite the new family dynamic, he/she is loved and cared for by both parents.
Here are Mello & Pickering, LLP, with our combined more than35 years of experience in family law, we have helped guide several clients through the custody evaluation process. Our experience allows us to help ensure that you and your family receive the highest quality service possible throughout your divorce and/or custody/visitation case.