Counseling & Therapeutic Intervention

In the world of Texas family law, we like to think that the work we do allows families to be put in the most advantageous situations possible when a case is said and done. We as attorneys understand that there are significant financial and time commitments that come along with a family law case. The work that you as a client put into a case should not be diminished. Attorneys can sometimes get lost in the work that we must perform on behalf of clients like yourself, but we understand that it is your life that is impacted by the family law case more so than the attorney- no matter how much work each of our attorneys put into a case. 

When a family law case ends that means that our relationship with you as a client comes to an end. We still owe you confidentiality regarding your circumstances, but the attorney-client relationship was changed at that point. Your case is done, your bill is paid, and our services to you have been rendered. We will go about representing other people and you have the rest of your life to lead. The family law case will leave an indelible imprint on your family and your life. Nobody knows what direction your life will go in at that stage, but it is easy to see how the family law case will play a large role in determining that direction as well as the kind of relationships that you have with your family after that point.

Unfortunately, there are circumstances within family law cases that require additional work even after the case itself is over. Parental alienation cases are among the most highly litigated and hotly contested. Parental alienation involves one parent attempting to turn their children against a co-parent. While there are many shapes and forms of parental alienation the symptoms of the alienation as far as how it impacts the kids can be especially difficult for a family to tolerate. What used to be a strong relationship between you and your children may take on added dimensions. Or you may see your relationship with your child change in that you see your child less. Whatever the situation may be, counseling and therapy may be part of the recovery process after the conclusion of your case. 

Therapy and counseling have a negative connotations in many areas of our culture. While therapy has been shown to provide great benefits for many people there are still certain stigmas attached to it as far as the reasons why people seek counseling. The idea that you are not capable of solving problems completely on your drives many people to second guess whether therapy is necessary or even to resent the idea that they may require therapy. Whatever category you fall into, I recommend paying close attention to today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We are going to share with you some information about therapy that may be helpful to you as you come out of a family law case. 

Where to obtain therapy or counseling services

One of the advantages of living in our city, state, and the country currently is that there are many options available to you when it comes to getting therapy or counseling during and after a family law case. For starters, the pandemic has forced many technological innovations around counseling that may have otherwise taken years to achieve. For instance, as Zoom took over workplace meetings so too has it supplanted in-person meetings for therapy in many situations. While in-person therapy has its advantages it is important for health, privacy, and confidentiality reasons to be able to have alternatives to in-person meetings. Zoom therapy sessions can help people who are otherwise hesitant about therapy obtain services for their family-related issues. If you feel more comfortable going through your issues remotely then this is a huge bonus for you. 

Online applications that come up on your phone can be a way for you to access care. Paying for a subscription to an online therapy service can be one way to obtain counseling. Simply log into your phone provider’s application store to see what apps may be available on your phone for therapy. There will undoubtedly be some fees involved for accessing a therapist, but the costs may be diminished as a result of your meeting over the phone rather than in person. You can read reviews on these different services, price the service and possibly obtain a session of therapy at no or reduced cost to take the service for a “test drive.” I can’t do all the research for you on this, but you can perform it yourself at little expense in the way of time or money for you. 

Next, have you considered that there may be family therapy available to you through your church? Many pastors are trained in therapy and would be able to offer services if that is your wish. Different denominations have therapy services provided through them on an organizational level. You can work with experienced therapists who can treat you and your family based on the teachings and foundations of your faith background. For many religious people, this would be the only way that he or they would tolerate therapy. You can reach out to your priest, minister, pastor, or another religious leader to learn more about the opportunities available to you from your religious group. 

An obvious downside to this type of therapy is that you would have no anonymity surrounding this type of therapy. Bear in mind that you may be less comfortable talking to people that ostensibly know you and your spouse or children. On the other hand, that knowledge of your family may come in handy especially if these therapy sessions end up looking more like casual conversations between friends. Your children may be more comfortable meeting with people that they know rather than a stranger in a strange office or over the phone. If your children are involved in the therapy, you should talk with them about the process and see what they are comfortable with as far as therapy is concerned. 

You can also check with your health insurance provider to determine whether any counselors or mental health therapists are covered under your health insurance plan. One of the many reasons why people choose to forego medical treatment is the cost associated with the treatment. This means that if you can reduce or even eliminate costs associated with care for your family’s health needs then you may be able to take better advantage of the opportunities that are made available to you. Regardless, of whatever the situation is that you are facing when it comes to mental health you can verify coverage under your health insurance. Many providers see mental health as a great way to reduce more expensive physical health costs that may arise as a result of conditions like depression and anxiety. Certainly, these sorts of diagnoses should not be tossed around casually but it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where your mental health or that of your child suffers as a result of parental alienation that is ongoing and left unchecked. 

How bad can alienation or its symptoms get?

If you are going through a situation where parental alienation is occurring in your home, you should be aware that there are a range of symptoms associated with the behaviors. We have already seen how a child distancing themselves from you, showing signs of anger, hostility, or even making threats that he or she does not want to see you again is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parental alienation symptoms. Children are loyal to a fault in some situations. You should not be surprised that if your co-parent is allowed to give your child messages repeatedly about you being a bad parent or bad person your child will begin to believe him or her. This is true even if you see parental alienation as more empty threats that will fall on deaf ears. 

On a basic level, your child may voice displeasure overcoming your home initially. Your co-parent may even give you a phone call on occasion to tell you that your son is saying that he does not want to come and see you this weekend or something like that. At first, these calls could be concerning to you. What parent likes to hear that their son is not looking forward to a visit to see him? However, you can convince your child to allow the visitation period to occur and once he is over to your home he acts normally. He enjoys the visit, and everything seems ok. However, those good feelings may only last for a certain period until your child is back at his mother’s home. Once at home with your mom, she may resume her efforts to alienate your child from you. 

Next up, if your child is displaying moderate signs of alienation then he may consistently oppose being with you in a visitation setting. Think of the above example with the only difference being that those feelings of the hesitancy of visitation towards you persist even while your child is in your home. A child who does not engage is disrespectful towards you and voices a desire to go “home” constantly may be displaying characteristics of a child who is being alienated from you. You can do your best to talk with your child about this if you think that it is going to make a positive difference. Otherwise, the better move may be to address the situation directly with your co-parent. 

The most significant sign of parental alienation is when your child simply refuses to come over for visitation. This is what happens when a parent consistently and forcefully pushes alienating behavior upon a child. We see this in the family law world, especially during a divorce or child custody case. A parent will give our office a call on Friday afternoon to ask us to call their wife’s attorney because she is denying possession of the child for a weekend of visitation. The justification given by the wife will be that little Susie does not want to go to dad’s house for the weekend and she is not comfortable trying to force her to go. The child’s refusal to see a parent is not a sufficient explanation for the courts when it comes to a denial of visitation. During a divorce case, you can request a hearing to address this situation of visitation denials. After a divorce or child custody case, you would need to file an enforcement lawsuit against your co-parent. 

One word of caution at this stage of a case is that if you are seeking to file an enforcement lawsuit against your co-parent then you need to be denied visitation to do so. You cannot expect to win an enforcement case when you never actually showed up and were able to receive your child for the weekend. The justification for this cannot be that you were told in advance that your child was not willing to spend time with you that weekend or that he was refusing to go with you. 

Rather, you need to be waiting and able to receive the kids at the time that pick-up was supposed to occur. If your pickup spot is a fast-food restaurant you shouldn’t wait until five minutes after the drop-off was supposed to occur to claim that you were present at the location at the correct time. You can go through the drive-thru and order an ice cream cone or a soda and then keep that receipt. The receipt will show that you were at the correct time and location and were ready to take the kids home. This is the way to position yourself as well as possible when it comes to claiming parental inference with custody and visitation

What to do if you are facing a situation that involves parental alienation

It is normal to feel overwhelmed by a family law case. You are dealing with circumstances and situations that may be completely foreign to you. For example, imagine a situation where you are accustomed to seeing your child with great frequency but are now having your visitation limited a great deal because of a co-parent who is alienating your child from you. This child who used to have a great relationship with you now views you as a nuisance on a good day and an enemy on a bad day. What can you do to combat these types of situations and to better control your circumstances? Here is some information that may be of value to you.

The person that you need to address any issues with directly when it comes to parental alienation is your Co-parent. No matter the age of your child he or she is still just that: a child. You cannot fully hold him or her responsible for feeling certain ways towards you based on alienating behavior on the part of your co-parent. Any symptoms of the alienating behavior such as acting disrespectfully or even with violence towards you can and should be handled as you would any other disciplinary issue. However, to try and hold your child accountable 4 their views towards you about parental alienation is not fair.

When you find yourself in a position where parental alienation is an ongoing issue you should address that directly with your co-parent. If he or she is completely unreceptive to your ideas or concerns, then the next step would be to bring up the problems with an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer who has helped people in your situation before can be exactly what you need to combat alienation. It is our experience that alienating behavior will not stop on its own. Parents begin to feel empowered that their tactics will be left unchecked and that they will be unwilling to do something to combat them. If you have had visitation or possession denied as a result of parental alienation, then you can file an enforcement case against your Co-parent. The purpose of the enforcement case will be to bring to the court’s attention your parent’s behavior. You can then seek to make up visitation or any other relief that you see fit. However, before you proceed into a complex enforcement case it is best to have the advice and perspective of an experienced family law attorney to help guide you. These cases can become quite detailed and mistakes that are made can cost you both time and money.

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 as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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