Can a Court Order Counseling for Children of Divorce?
When you are involved in a divorce, the process can take a serious psychological and emotional toll on you. If you have children, the effects of the divorce can be even more significant. Many children whose parents get divorced tend to struggle with the situation, and they may exhibit behavioral problems, uncontrollable emotions, and signs of anxiety or depression. Divorcing parents often wonder if the court has any power to order counseling or therapy for the children and how the costs of such services will be split. Under Illinois law, a divorce judge can order counseling for children in the midst of a divorce, and the orders will depend on the family’s situation.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act encourages divorcing parents to negotiate an agreement about parenting arrangements for their children. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will decide on such arrangements. To help the court make a decision, it may appoint an appropriately-trained professional to evaluate the child and each parent. Evaluations often include tests, interviews, and other methods of determining what the child needs. The court also has the authority to order the payment of costs for these evaluations—if they are not done by a state agency—to be split equitably between the divorcing parties.
Counseling and Therapy
An Illinois family court has the discretion to require counseling for the child, as well as either or both parents, in certain situations. The court may order counseling if:
- The parents can agree on the necessity of counseling;
- The child’s health or emotional development is in danger;
- There are substantiated allegations of abuse of parenting time; or
- Either parent has violated the terms of their parenting plan related to behavior that affects the child or conduct in the presence of the child.
In most cases, counseling orders are issued when the divorce judgment or parenting plan is approved by the court. However, it is possible for the court to order counseling while the case is still being decided. Any costs of counseling will be divided between the parents by the court.
It is critical to keep in mind that counseling is not an investigative tool. The court cannot order counseling as a method of finding information that relates to the current or future proceedings. Any counseling, seminars, or therapy sessions, are confidential and intended to help the person who attends them.
We Can Help
If your child is having trouble adjusting to a new life after a divorce, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. We will help you explore your options for getting your child the assistance he or she needs. Call 630-549-0960 for a confidential consultation at MKFM Law today.