If you find yourself in a highly contentious and difficult divorce, then it is also possible that the result of the case could be that your relationship with your children becomes strained and distant. Maintaining relationships throughout a divorce can be difficult even if you can achieve your goals within the context of your case. As your child gets older, it is possible that your child could refuse to have a relationship with you or even acknowledge or talk to you. I have seen instances where parents and children do not talk to one another for months or even years after a difficult divorce or child custody case.
I don't mention these things to scare you or intimidate you from filing a family law case. I'm not even saying that this will be the norm or something you should expect within a family law case. However, you need to be aware that sometimes extreme circumstances occur within the context of a case that impacts your relationship with your children negatively. Texas courts can request that you become involved in counseling after a family law case.
If your relationship becomes strained with your children after a family law case, you may be in a position to take advantage of reunification therapy offered by a family counselor or therapist. Treatment sessions such as these offer you an opportunity to create goals with your family and as individuals. You and your children will be tasked with fulfilling certain requirements and taking up certain responsibilities when managing your relationship and post-divorce lives. The end goal of this type of therapy is to rectify any wrongs committed during the case and improve your relationship with one another.
How can a family law case take such a turn for the worse?
Just about every family who goes through a family law case expects some difficulties associated with doing so. It is not uncommon for families to experience a great deal of stress and anxiety when concerned with difficult circumstances in a legal matter. This is true even for families who are ordinarily good-natured and even-keeled. Even if you and your co-parent have a good relationship, the stress is that can be a part of a family law case oftentimes create adverse circumstances that impact the family for an extended period after the case comes to a close.
Imagine that you were in a circumstance where your child, after your divorce comes soon in, will not come and see you for any reason. You have established Visitation in possession orders, but the child refuses to enter your vehicle and come to your house. Even quick meals during the week are too much for the child, and he refuses to spend time with you. Not only is your relationship with the child being harmed as a result, but your mental health is struggling because a child that you love so much refuses to have anything to do with your life.
From what your co-parent tells you, the child is accusing you of harming the family, hurting him on an emotional level, and has no desire ever to see you again. What do you want to his mother's house to drop off Christmas presents? He was extremely disrespectful to you and even attempted to hit you? While all of this is going on, your ex-spouse is doing very little to mend the relationship between you and your child. She has unpleasant memories of the divorce, as well, and generally does not know where to begin when it comes to attempting to help you repair your relationship with your child.
As time has gone on, your child has gone from a young, elementary school-age child to an older child who is nearing middle school. At first, you were mainly concerned that his unwillingness to see you resulted from a fear of leaving his mother, the primary parent in the relationship. Now your concern is that not only is this still the case but that the child, who has their interests from what you can tell on social media, does not want to get involved in a situation where he has to travel back and forth between your house and his mother's house frequently. You are beginning to worry that a conflict in personalities and a desire not to become engaged in additional custody battles have led the child to want to eliminate you from their life.
Parental alienation regarding family reunification therapy
On the other end of the spectrum, you also have concerns that your ex-wife is complicating the situation even more so. While you were married, it was not uncommon for your wife 2 say derogatory things about you in front of the children for apparently no reason. At that time, you would shrug it off as something that you weren't overly concerned with, but now, as you think about it, it could have laid the groundwork for parental alienation that is harming your relationship with your child.
On the one hand, you fear that your ex-wife is doing so out of spite and anger towards you. On the other hand, you realize that your ex-wife is not the most in touch with her own emotions and may be unable to help your child manage their emotions because she cannot do the same for herself. This is undoubtedly a circumstance that will be difficult for you to manage on your own and is becoming worse by the day. Your concern is that there may not be specific grounds to attempt to modify or enforce your final decree of divorce you tried to do so there would be a sense of being overwhelmed by the courts because your family is in such hot water and dire straits as far as your relationships with one another.
What must your child learn to adapt to after a divorce?
Especially in a high conflict family like yours has proven to be, your child has to learn to adapt to a situation where they will be living in two houses in going back and forth between your home and that of your ex-spouse on a fairly frequent basis. Both you and your ex-wife have different parenting styles, and your households are run differently. This can be a shock to the system of a child who is used to a household being run in a certain way and for himself to fit into that family relationally in a certain way.
Consider what your feelings are towards therapy or counseling as a means to help your relationship with your estranged child.
For starters, you need to come to terms with your willingness to participate in therapy for reunification purposes. Many parents that I've spoken with on this subject are unwilling or, at the very least, UN excited about the prospect of attending therapy or counseling. The reason for this is that many parents feel like attending therapy is admitting to themselves that they have done something wrong or that they are inadequate when it comes to parenting their children. Although our society is improving in terms of its outlook on therapy and counseling, many people believe that therapy is for broken people or for those unable to help themselves.
If you are in a position where reunification therapy is a possibility for your family, you should look at it as an opportunity to begin a process that will allow you to progress towards rebuilding and strengthening a relationship with your child. It is not uncommon for you to feel like you have been made a victim by the process, the courts, your family, and your ex-spouse. You may have had incidents in your divorce where your relationship with your child was ridiculed or worse and force for reasons beyond your control.
As a result of these issues, you may have taken on a persona of being down in the dumps, depressed, anxious, and generally upset. Although in your heart you may feel like you want to do what is best for your child and desperately want to have a relationship with him, it can present to others that you are disinterested or even angry at your child if you do not get control over your emotions and the way you present yourself to your family. This will undoubtedly affect your ability to participate in counseling or therapy with one another.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that your child may feel like they are a victim in this whole endeavor. Your children have lived under a degree of pressure in their household for an extended period, and they may be reticent to participate in any process that causes them to relive unpleasant memories or experiences. Children can take on personalities that are afraid, cruel, indifferent, and emotions such as these in a therapy setting. Unfortunately, a child's development is stunted due to their having to take on responsibilities and emotions that an adult would do to your divorce.
The importance of treatment goals in reunification therapy
Treatment goals are going to be set for you and your family and the individual members of your family. If you are fortunate enough to be able to get your family into a reunification therapy setting, then you should be able to work with your therapist to identify an individual and family goals that can be started from the beginning in that all parties can work towards throughout the treatment sessions. Not only is it important to develop goals, but you need to develop and plan for how to achieve those goals intentionally.
From what I have seen and heard about family reunification therapy, sometimes the worst part of the entire process is approaching weeks and days towards the first appointment. I will oftentimes tell clients that our worst fears in life typically never come to fruition and our anticipation of an experience we expect to be negative is almost always worse than the experience itself. In his book “the seven habits of highly effective people,” author Dale Carnegie stated that 80% of the things we fear in life never actually happen.
Children who are anticipating reunification therapy will oftentimes feel even more anxious and fearful than normal. In normal circumstances, you and your Co-parent will be able to rely upon each other as support to help parent a child through circumstances like this. But through the alienation process, you cannot offer support to your child's Co-parent with whom he resides primarily.
Progress made in therapy is not always linear.
By this time in the pandemic, we are all familiar with the line graphs showing the coronavirus's increasing and decreasing nature in our community and county. If we can imagine that line graph in the context of progress made in reunification therapy is rarely, if ever, goes up at a steady rate or pace. Rather, many families who go through reunification therapy experience a "two steps forward, one step back" path towards their reunification goals.
Families are constantly evolving and changing. Your child may experience a great deal of progress and then hit a roadblock for many reasons. You or your ex-spouse may experience something similar. It could be that new subject matter is being discussed, which is especially sensitive or difficult to stomach. You and your family need to trust the process and one another to overcome these bumps in the road.
What frequently happens in these sorts of therapy sessions is that you all may need to Take breaks that lasted varying lengths to accommodate a member of your family who needs time away to collect their thoughts before they can again proceed towards your reunification goals. You and your family need to be able to select the therapist who works best for you all. This will not be easy, considering that the vast majority of the time, families have little experience in working with family therapists. It may be necessary for you to obtain recommendations from your court or from your attorney to find the right therapist for your family.
If you are a results-oriented and goal-oriented person, it can be extremely frustrating to find that your family experiences troublesome roadblocks and bumps in the road as far as treatment is concerned. You crave that sort of linear progress that we discussed earlier, which is very difficult to achieve in reality. Rather than becoming upset or frustrated at your lack of progress, it is great to understand that progress; however, it is beneficial for your relationship.
I would also be cognizant of your willingness not to pressure your child to attend counseling or achieve certain goals. This is especially true if your child is younger or has other developmental delays that frustrate and retire his ability to perform in a certain way when meeting goals and objectives previously set in a counseling session. Attending counseling and opening up to strangers is not easy for anyone, most notably for children who have developmental or other special needs. My recommendation would be to truly think about the extent to which you can push your family and then to go no further.
Overall, I always encourage families to try to work out and negotiate their way through a divorce in hopes of avoiding conflict down the road. I find that the groundwork for your post-divorce life can be laid as early as the beginning of your divorce case. However, some degree of conflict may be unavoidable in your case. If that winds up being true, you should always maintain an even temper and then work with your families, which is possible on the reunification progress after a case has concluded. You may not always be in control of your circumstances, but you can control your attitude and how you treat the people in your family even if you believe that you have been wronged in the past. What may feel good at the moment may end up being hurtful for you and your family in the long term.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances can relate to that law.