Family Therapy and the Family Court Proceedings
At Perth Family Lawyers we are acutely aware that Family Court proceedings can be very stressful for everyone involved. Parents often find it extremely challenging to continue to co-parent in the midst of long and often highly conflictual parenting disputes. At times, during such proceedings, the children may refuse or become resistant to spending time with one of the parents.
Family therapy may serve as a powerful tool to help parents learn how to promote their children’s relationship with the other parent in a way that also promotes the children’s best interest and wellbeing. Family therapy can also provide the parents with insight into their own acts and views and help them improve their parenting skills. Family therapy can be reportable and non-reportable.
Reportable Family Therapy
Reportable family therapy is where the parents and the children (if it is appropriate for the children to be included) engage with a suitably qualified therapist to discuss the relationship between the children and their parents and its breakdown. The parents are advised from the get-go that the therapist will report to the Family Court about what was said and can provide the court with his or her observations and recommendations.
Reportable family therapy may be agreed upon between the parties, or it can be Court ordered.
Reportable family therapy is a method for the Court to gain realistic insight of the issues and dynamic of the family. With such input, the Court is better equipped to make orders progressing the matter towards its resolution, and which are in the best interests of the children.
The downside of reportable family therapy is that the parents and/or the children may not feel they can really lay their cards on the table, being aware that anything said could be reportable. Accordingly, they may not “truly” engage in the process and attempt to resolve issues.
Non-Reportable Family Therapy
Non-reportable family therapy is where the parents and the children engage with a therapist in a confidential setting. This means that nothing said during therapy can be disclosed to the Court (subject to mandatory reporting).
Non-reportable family therapy can be something the parents (and their children) attend of their own volition. The Court can also order non-reportable family therapy, if the Court is of the view that it would assist the parents and promote the children’s best interest.
Non-reportable family therapy can provide parents and children with an opportunity to openly speak about the experience and feelings, and attempt to find the best way to function as a family and support the children. This can be done without fear that anything said could be perceived negatively by the Court or reported to other family members, so the parents and the children are encouraged to be completely open.
Non-reportable family therapy, however, may not be the best option where it is important that the therapist be provided with the court documents and information to provide effective therapeutic intervention. In such circumstances, non-reportable family therapy may be of little value for the family if it is not going to achieve change.
Family law experts (and the Family Court) have recognised that additional support and guidance from a qualified family therapist can achieve amazing results for families experiencing estrangement or relationship breakdown between a parent and a child. However, all families are different and unique, and parents should carefully consider whether family therapy is appropriate for them, and whether it should be reportable or non-reportable.
With our niche experience in the family law space, we can guide you through such considerations. If you are thinking about commencing family therapy, call our office on (08) 9325 8675 and we will be able to provide you with legal advice and best way forward that supports you and your children to achieve the best outcomes.