When a court decides on child custody matters as part of a divorce decree, it takes a lot of different factors into account. While the court will usually attempt to comply with the desires of any child old enough to express them, the law requires parental rights of both parents to be respected. This can create child custody rules that a child doesn’t accept and refuses to participate in.

Technically, the divorce decree is binding for all parties involved, including the parents. But courts are usually hesitant to punish a child who balks at custody rules after a divorce. The court has limited information about the past relationship of those involved and doesn’t want to punish a child if, for example, the other parent instigates parental alienation.

One common solution is reunification therapy. This can repair a child-parent relationship in the best-case scenario. And even when it doesn’t completely repair it, this type of therapy will often improve it.

What Is Reunification Therapy?

As the name suggests, reunification therapy is designed to help parents and children reunite after a child breaks off contact with the parent. Like any therapy, the final results may not be perfect, but this therapy usually improves the relationship.

How Does Reunification Therapy Get Started?

Typically, reunification therapy is initiated in one of two ways: by the non-custodial parent or by a court order.

If the child’s refusal to interact with the non-custodial parent violates the court-ordered child custody arrangement, the court may order reunification therapy to correct that situation. However, if a child refuses to cooperate with therapy, the court is unlikely to punish them, especially if they are a teenager.

A parent can also initiate reunification therapy without the assistance of the court. This usually works best if the custodial parent supports restoring the broken relationship. If they aren’t, this probably will be ineffective.

What the Therapist Does in Reunification Therapy

The therapist puts the interests of the child above all else. While it is usually in the child’s best interests to have a good relationship with both parents, there are exceptions.

The therapist will interview the child without anyone else present to determine the source of the rift between the child and the parent. Once that rift is identified, they will determine whether reunification is called for. 

Sometimes, the therapist will determine it is unsafe or bad for the child’s emotional health to return to a relationship with the parent. In those situations, the therapist will detail their reasons in a report and end the therapy.

When therapy is appropriate, the therapist will work with both the child and non-custodial parent in a safe and controlled environment to repair the damage to the relationship. The goal isn’t necessarily to get the child to agree to the child custody plan. Usually, the goal is to get the child to be willing to spend more time with the non-custodial parent.

This therapy usually takes a few months, and the results are often mixed. As a parent, you should probably expect your child to be willing to spend more time with you, but not necessarily as much as the divorce decree requires. In these cases, it is better to accept what your child is willing to give you than to force them to do what they don’t want to.

Reunification Therapy Is Not a Magic Bullet

While reunification therapy may improve your relationship with your child, it isn’t likely to make it perfect. However, it is still a potentially good option when you want to be the best parent possible.  

Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help

Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bergen County Law Office
1 University Plaza Dr #400, Hackensack, NJ 07601, United States