Is It OK For a Parent to Schedule Counseling For A Child Without The Other Parent?
Counseling for children whose parents are divorcing or have recently divorced can be a very good idea. However, the choice of the counselor and scheduling of the counseling must be planned out and agreed upon by both parents. There are several reasons that this is true, primarily seeking the best results from therapy for the child. However, there are several legal reasons why this is true as well.
First, if the parents are not yet divorced, it is assumed by the court that both parents should have an equal say in important decisions regarding a child's health and welfare. Counseling is intended to help the children cope with the separation of the parents and help the children deal with the anxiety created by the changes. It is not intended to discuss how bad one parent is or hash out the other parent's negative effects on the child. As such, it is most definitely the type of decision that requires an agreement from both parents.
Second, if the parents are divorced, in most instances they will share joint legal custody, which means that a court has explicitly ordered that both parents have to agree upon counseling and the counselor. Failure to obtain an agreement from the other parent before taking to the children to a counselor is contempt of court. If the other parent files a motion, the court will most almost certainly order the parents to select a new counselor, work together to schedule the counseling and participate in counseling only as requested by the counselor. Further, depending on the circumstances, the court may order sanctions such as payment of attorney fees or use this as a basis to revisit parenting time and custody.
Recently there has been a disturbing trend of one parent scheduling counseling for the children with his or her own therapist without even advising the other parent that he or she is taking the children to see his or her counselor. This type of action will appear to the court as though that parent is not actually seeking counseling for the children but rather seeking to use counseling as a device to further drive a wedge between the children and the other parent with the approval of a supposed "professional".
Frankly, any counselor who is willing to meet with and offer counseling to children in such a situation should have his or her license reviewed. The conflict of interest in such a case (a counselor whose opinion of the one parent the therapist has most likely never met has been poisoned by the prolonged, intense, sympathetic, therapeutic relationship previously established with the other parent) is so blatantly obvious that it shocks the conscience. In such a situation, the other parent has no choice but to immediately file a motion with the court to bring its attention to these violations and correct the situation before the alleged "professional" can further damage the parental relationship.
If you are faced with a situation where the other parent is disregarding your rights to make decisions regarding the welfare of the children or violating a joint legal custody order, please do not hesitate to schedule a consultation through my assistant, Cathy, at 248-608-4123 or through my web site.