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Can Pre-Divorce Child Counseling Be Ordered in a Legal Separation?

Preparing for divorce is a process in and of itself. It’s hard enough for the adults that are dealing with the process. However, when it comes to children, they often find themselves facing a lot of issues and trying to figure out what all this means to them, for them, and if any of it has to do with something they’ve done. We all know that children aren’t the “cause” for divorce—but the kids don’t know that. Fortunately, counseling is an option that can help children through the legal separation and divorce process.

Some parents wonder if pre-divorce counseling can be ordered in the same way that many states order couples’ counseling prior to divorce. The short answer is that it can, but it isn’t always. The rules are different in each state, and then there are the individual circumstances of each case that need to be considered.

The Courts are Looking Out for the Children

The most important thing to understand in any family law case is that the courts will always be working to act in the best interests of the child or children involved in the case. That includes whether they decide to order child counseling as part of a legal separation of the parents. The parents don’t necessarily have to agree on this issue, either. It’s best if you can, of course, but that’s rare.

If one parent believes that a child needs counseling or that it could benefit them, they could use their custody leverage (such as if they have sole or primary custody) to urge the courts to order it as part of the process. On the other hand, if a parent with custody says the child doesn’t need counseling and the parent who rarely sees the child asks for it, it probably won’t be granted.

If the parents can’t agree on counseling terms for the children, a court-appointed authority could be given the power to determine whether counseling would benefit the child. This is done on a case-by-case basis. This authority, known as a guardian at litem, would also be able to give the court recommendations regarding visitation and custody matters.

What Holds Up the Divorce Process?

There are several elements, including necessary counseling, that can slow down the process of legal separation or divorce. Hiring a lawyer will help you get a glimpse of the expected timeline of the divorce and determine how long everything will take. Counseling can be ordered in multiple ways. However, if it’s required to be completed before the legal separation can be granted, you’ll want to get it taken care of sooner than later.

Other things can hold up the divorce process, including many related to the children and custody, as well as child support payments, deciding who gets legal decision-making power, and so forth. Essentially, any point of contention that you have with the other parent could hold things up and draw out the divorce process, which is even more stressful for the kids.

What are Discovery Items and What Will My Attorney Need?

Discovery is a part of the legal separation or divorce process that refers to the evidence gathering and investigating of the facts of the case. This happens in every pre-trial case, including divorce, and it’s important to know what to expect so that you can make the most of the process. Discovery will include the finding and investigation of anything relevant to your case that may influence the judge’s decision.

In the case of pre-divorce child counseling, you may want to provide evidence that the child is struggling with the separation, or that they have benefited from therapy in the past. Perhaps you will want to provide discovery items related to the other parent’s disdain for therapy and psychiatry that would influence their ability to do what’s best for their child.

For example, if a child knew about a parent’s affair but was forced to hide it from the other parent or advised to keep it a secret in a way that made them feel trapped, courts may order that counseling be offered for the child and that the parent involved in the affair pay for the sessions. You would have to have proof of all of this to make your case, so be sure that you don’t start making claims until you’ve gathered all the facts. That’s where having a divorce attorney can come in handy.

Essentially, you’ll need to provide your attorney with any documents or resources that will help you get a fair outcome that is truly in the best interests of your children. Whether that includes counseling or not will depend on several factors, including the circumstances of day-to-day life, the relationship between the parents, and more.

Do It for the Kids

More than anything, you need to consider pre-divorce counseling for the kids if it seems like it’s going to be a good decision for them. Some children don’t respond well to therapy. Others might just not know how to respond to it. In any case, both parents should always be trying to do what’s in the best interests of the children, including helping them understand counseling and how it could help. During a divorce, it’s easy for parents to get caught up in disagreements with each other, but it’s important to step back and remember that there are kids involved here and you have to do what’s best for them.

If you aren’t sure how to get the help that you need or you feel like your spouse will fight you on certain matters, it will be essential for you to have a dedicated divorce attorney on your side who can help you navigate things and make sure that the kids are a priority in every decision. Counseling is never a bad idea, even if it’s not ordered by the court, so it might be worth looking into. Talk to your kids and see what they need.

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