After years of practicing as a New Jersey family lawyer, countless parents have come to me because the other parent is interfering with their parenting time. In fact, some of these folks have not seen their children in years due to alienation of the child caused by the other parent. However, even when the other parent is at fault, the focus is always about, “the best interests of the children.” Therefore, a therapeutic situation may be in order so the child it “at ease” once they are reintroduced to their long, lost mom or dad. As a seasoned New Jersey divorce attorney, I often save my client’s attorneys fees by advising them what a Court will most likely do in such a situation; reunification therapy.
Reunification therapy is exactly what it sounds like. It is a type of therapy that is used to reunite an alienated parent with his or her children. The primary goal of the therapy is to reestablish the relationship between the parent and his or her children so that they can move forward without having their bond severed again. It differs from parenting coordination, where the goal is to have a third party help the parties to enforce an existing parenting agreement or create a new, more suitable one. This distinction is noteworthy because it makes reunification therapy more curative. As a reunification therapist, one can analyze and discover the root of the parental alienation pursuant to each family’s unique circumstances and remedy the situation for the future.
While sometimes the reunification therapy process can be quick, it typically is a more long-term type of therapy. In the case where a child is extremely overwhelmed at the thought of being reunited with his or her other parent, therapy could last for a few months to ensure that a healthy, new relationship is formed. As long as there is trust and cooperation amongst all the parties involved, reunification therapy will likely be successful.
What are the stages of reunification therapy?
Just like any type of therapy process, reunification therapy is typically split up into three interconnected stages: (1) assessment, (2) commitment and preparation, and (3) integration.
The first stage, assessment, is where the reunification therapist gets acquainted with the children and isolated parent. He or she can request information to better understand the patients such as how long has it been since the children have seen their parent, how the children and parent used to communicate before the alienation began, the current parenting time schedule, and even medical information. It is common for a reunification therapist to ask both parents questions to get the all the pieces of the puzzle, yet at no point in time should the therapist be biased by any of the parent’s responses.
The second stage, commitment and preparation, is where the reunification therapist will explain the process that is about to unfold to all parties involved i.e. the both parents and children. It is important for a reunification therapist to provide guidelines to the parties so that they have an idea of what to expect in the coming sessions. Additionally, it is important that both parents, not just the alienated one, be involved throughout the therapy stages so that they both can truly grasp the importance of co-parenting.
Furthermore, during the commitment and preparation stage the therapist will begin his or her individual meetings with the parents and children. If the children are aware of the parental alienation, it might make them feel more blameworthy that they didn’t insist on seeing their other parent. This could really upset children later in life so it is imperative to rectify the situation. That is why the reunification therapist will encourage the children to be open and honest, revealing all feelings of remorse.
In the third stage, integration, the therapist will begin to hold group sessions. At this point, it is the hopes of the therapist for the children and parents to become more cohesive and strive for the same goal, reunification. While the reunification therapist will continue to make recommendations to the parties and assist in the discussions, the children and parents will be more vocal toward each other as well.
If you or a loved one believes that this process will help overcome parental alienation and mend a relationship with your child, it is important to call my office today to discuss further. Thank you.