Four ways to use counseling as a tactical procedural device.
The judge has ordered the parents to submit to counseling before he makes a final custody decision. Now what? You could simply wait for a counselor to be selected and attend a counseling session once you receive notice to do so. Or you could take control of the four big issues from the outset.
Issue #1 – Scope of Counseling: Ask the judge the state, as specifically as possible, what issues the counselor will be addressing. By defining and limiting the scope of counseling, you can retain control over the subjects that later come before the court.
Issue #2 – Cost of Counseling: Who will be paying for the counselor? Be sure that each party has some financial obligation. A party who has no financial responsibility may not take the process seriously.
Issue #3 — Counseling Schedule: When will the counseling sessions be held? Will you be available? Will the other parent or the children be available? Who should be present at each counseling session? Be sure that the sessions are scheduled intelligently.
Issue #4 — Confidentiality and Privilege: Will the counselor be functioning as an actual counselor, maintaining your confidences with the full protection of a therapist-patient privilege against testifying in court? Or will the counselor be writing a report for the benefit of the court, making herself available to testify or offering an opinion as to the key custody issues? Be sure to ascertain in advance whether the counsel will be providing therapy and counseling or services or whether she will be functioning instead as a custody evaluator and expert witness.
Before counseling begins, you should raise these issues with the judge. If the court declines to address these issues, you should raise them with the counselor in the very first session. Take control of these issues as a tactical measure to ensure that your schedule is not unfairly burdened, that you’re not paying an inordinate amount for the counseling sessions, and that the counseling process is not aimlessly open-ended.
Please share with us any interesting stories you may have about court-ordered counseling.