Parenting matters are often very stressful for all parties involved, including the children. It is also an area where the issues between the parties and the children can be complex, particularly in cases where the children are entering young adulthood.
The challenge in these cases is to assist parents to recognise the need to support their young adult children, but at the same time to ensure the children maintain a meaningful relationship with each of their parents.
It is not unusual for older children to resist contact with one or other of their parents. The reasons for the resistance can be complex and difficult for the Court to respond to.
Recently in WA, we have seen the emergence of reportable (or intensive) family therapy in complex parenting cases involving resistance or refusal by a child to spend time with a parent.
What is it?
Reportable (or intensive) family therapy involves the parents and the children attending goal directed therapy with a suitably qualified therapist (usually a clinical psychologist) to address the breakdown of the relationship between the child and one or other of their parents.
Prior to the therapy commencing the parents and children are expected to commit to the shared goal.
The reportable therapy is not confidential but rather, the therapist is equipped with the capacity to provide feedback to the parties, and the Court as to progress made at therapy. The parameters of the reportable nature of the therapy will also be the subject of discussion and agreement prior to the therapy commencing.
The therapist may make recommendations to the Court and the parties as to steps either the parties or the children might take, to improve communication and relationships on the breakdown of a relationship.
How can it help?
Reportable family therapy is aimed at families experiencing estrangement or severe relationship breakdown between a parent and a child.
The therapist works with each member of the family to identify and manage interpersonal or personality-based issues with a view to developing strategies that allow the family to manage or move past the conflict.
Importantly, the therapy may encourage a change in attitude by parties and children in a safe and supported environment. If that is not successful, the Court is likely to have a greater insight, from the reports of the therapist as to the reasons for the breakdown of the relationship.
How do I engage in it?
You and the other parent may agree to enter into intensive family therapy before any proceedings are commenced.
Once proceedings are underway, the Court may make an Order for the family to attend reportable family therapy. If this course is taken, then either the Independent Children’s Lawyer (if one is appointed) or some other person may be appointed to coordinate the therapy.
There are costs involved, depending on the therapist engaged. These costs should be discussed before commencing the process.
Speak to your Family Lawyer to see if this is a process that could assist you.