How Do Court-Ordered Therapy and Custody Evaluations Affect Divorce?
The emotional and psychological fallout of separation and divorce can have a major impact on a family. Once the initial shock passes and the legal process is underway, children start to get a sense that the change of divorce is really happening, and they may need extra support to get through the transition. The need for assistance is especially prevalent in high-conflict divorce cases in which both sides seek outcomes diametrically opposed to one another. These situations often involve animosities that are transferred to the children. Studies have long shown that divorce can lead to a wide range of negative and long-term emotional and psychological damage in children if not properly handled.
Addressing the needs of a child going through a divorce is complicated, and parents may require the involvement of multiple adults to provide sufficient support. For children who are struggling and starting to exhibit destructive behavior, such as depression, skipping school, or outbursts of anger, more direct intervention may be demanded. The courts have the power to order two processes that speak to this situation: custody evaluations and counseling.
When parents cannot agree on parenting plans, and this stalemate lasts for a long period of time, courts are often asked to step in and make the decision for them. Each family is unique, though, and any decision issued by the courts will affect the quality of life for the parents and children for years to come. To help the court form a better understanding of the family dynamics, and more specifically, the best interests of the child, a judge may order a custody evaluation to look at the relationship between the spouses, the parent/child relationships, and the child’s overall welfare.
A custody evaluation may involve interviews, testing, and in-home visits to fully assess the child’s environment and what would best facilitate the child’s needs. Ultimately, the evaluator’s observations and opinions will be presented to the court with recommendations on a parenting plan. Costs of these evaluators are usually divided fairly between the parties.
Another mechanism courts may use to alleviate some of the negative aspects of divorce on children is to order counseling, both for the children and/or parents during and after the divorce case is finalized. Courts may issue orders requiring therapy if:
- Both parents agree counseling is necessary;
- The child’s welfare is at risk;
- There are violations of parenting time; or
- One or both of the parents violated the terms of the parenting plan related to certain types of behavior in front of the child.
As with custody evaluations, the costs are typically divided between the parents. In addition, any information revealed remains confidential and may not be used in a pending or future legal proceeding.
Using These Supports Together
Resolving child custody disputes is in everyone’s interests, but parents in the middle of arguing this issue often have difficulty maintaining the perspective needed to reach a compromise. Counseling allows the child and/or parents to access a forum to work through emotional issues, and it may help the parties gain clarity about the situation. By bringing in an outside and disinterested individual, custody evaluations can provide the distance needed to gain an objective understanding of the family’s situation, and they can hopefully produce recommendations for the best possible parenting arrangement to promote cooperative behavior.
Contact a Palatine Divorce Attorney
If you are going through a divorce and need help reaching an agreement on matters related to your children, Arlington Heights family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson can provide you with the legal help you need. Divorce is difficult, but having an experienced attorney on your side can ease some of the tension and stress. Contact our law firm at 847.873.6741 for a free initial consultation.