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Caring and Professional Family Law Services

Should a judge be able to force children to get along with a parent? P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about a contentious custody battle between a former Michigan couple in which the children were forced to participate in so-called “reunification therapy” with their father, who is seeking full legal custody. The case has generated a lot of attention because of the court’s insistence that the children work to repair their relationship with their father.

The therapy ordered by the judge in this case is controversial among psychotherapists. Those who support the therapy say it is necessary to heal the parent-child relationship, while opponents say forcing children to participate can traumatize them and potentially put them in harm’s way. 

Such therapy is not fool-proof—sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, though it isn’t clear exactly what factors make the process more likely to succeed. And, because there are no established standards about use of the therapy, it is difficult to determine when it would be helpful and when it could be harmful for a family.

Parental alienation is a serious potential issue both during and after divorce. Because the wishes of children are taken into account when making custody determinations, parental alienation can end up influencing custody. Parental alienation can also impact custody and visitation time if a child decides he or she does not want to spend time with the noncustodial parent as dictated under custody and visitation orders. When this happens, it is important for the affected parent to continue abiding by his or her obligations under any court orders and work with an experienced attorney to determine the best way to address the situation. 

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Should a judge be able to force children to get along with a parent? P.2 | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC