Court Ordered Counseling in Divorce Cases

By Brenna Davis

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Divorce cases can quickly become extremely contentious, especially when there are children involved. Judges may order parents to attend counseling and encourage the parties to work together as a means of reducing conflict and resolving disputes. There are several different types of counseling available and the counseling ordered can vary with state law and the specifics of a case. The parties must attend all counseling sessions and provide proof of attendance. Failure to do so could land them in contempt of court.

Marriage Counseling

A few states require couples to attend marriage counseling before seeking a divorce. If you have not already attended counseling, the judge may order you to do so. These counseling sessions typically focus not on resolving divorce disputes but instead on repairing the marriage, if possible.

Parenting Seminars

Many states require parents involved in a divorce proceeding or custody dispute to attend a parenting seminar. These seminars are typically a day long and are taught by mental health professionals. Parents learn about children's developmental stages and the ways in which a divorce can negatively affect them. Parents are also taught how to manage conflict, design custody agreements that are in children's best interests and shield children from conflict. These seminars usually occur in large groups, but participants may be required to break into smaller groups to discuss individual problems.

Family Counseling

Family counseling involves the entire immediate family – parents and their children – and, if necessary, extended family members such as grandparents. These counseling sessions typically focus on managing and resolving conflict. Frequently, judges require that parents use a parenting coordinator to resolve disputes. These parenting coordinators are mental health professionals who help to mediate disagreements while providing counseling to all parties, including children, involved in the dispute. Parenting coordinators often have the authority to require additional counseling sessions or make minor alterations to a parenting plan.

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling is one-on-one counseling between an individual and a therapist. Judges may order individual counseling for all parties, including children. However, an individual counseling order is most common in cases where one party struggles with addiction, abuse or other serious problems. The individual may be ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment, anger management classes, or other forms of counseling targeted to his specific problem. Frequently, visitation or custody is contingent upon completion of this counseling.