Couples who seek marriage counseling before they file for divorce should be applauded. I wish more spouses and even unmarried couples with children sought out professional counseling before separation. Not only is it often worth the time and minimal effort but I am increasingly convinced marriage counseling, with some exceptions, should be a necessary prerequisite to a divorce filing.
Why do I believe this?
Because a significant number of marital problems couples face arise out of poor communication or priority setting. These issues need to be discussed and marriage counseling before a divorce stands a good chance of addressing such issues and moving the couple toward resolution. Even if counseling does not succeed in a reconciliation, it can help bring closure and set the foundation for a divorce that isn’t fraught with bitterness and hostility.
In this article, we are going to discuss the potential exceptions – situations where marriage counseling in an effort to reconcile should be approached with more caution and, in certain instances, reconciliation should be avoided until there are first certain minimum legal safeguards. We write this article from the perspective of divorce attorneys and nothing else. If you have questions about counseling from a therapeutic or other setting and wish to have a referral, there are several referral agencies or, if you desire, you can contact ou attorneys and we can refer you to experienced and licensed psychologists or therapists in Orange County.
Marriage Counseling and Reconciliation in Serious Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic violence is inexcusable and violence toward a spouse carries with it not just potential criminal and civil consequences but a breach of the most fundamental foundation to any relationship – trust. When a spouse has been the continued victim of domestic violence, there is inevitably a deep fear and insecurity that penetrates the victim’s psyche. Battered spouses who have remained in violent relationships sometimes stay because they feel like they have no place to go and, under such circumstances, there may be the inevitable belief (and the denial that accompanies it) that the abusive spouse will eventually change.
Counseling is very important for domestic violence victims and should be a top priority. But there is a difference between that type of counseling (typically between the victim and therapist and no others) and one who whose goal is reconciliation. Marriage counseling between spouses or partners that leads to reconciliation can be dangerous to the safety of the victim spouse as well as the children for the simple reason that, returning to the relationship, can expose them to more violence. In serious domestic violence cases, victim spouses should first consider obtaining a restraining order against the abusive spouse, sole custody orders to protect the children as well as financial support (child and spousal support). The separation and cooling off period may bring stability and safety to the abused spouse and allow him or her to determine the next logical step that is in his or her interest and that of the children.
Child Abuse and Orange County Marriage Counseling
Child abuse and domestic violence often go hand in hand but there are instances where only the children are subjected to physical or sexual abuse. While the same analysis as that of domestic violence applies to child abuse cases, there is one additional component the non-abusing spouse must take into consideration. Failing to remove the children from the abusive parent, and therefore keeping the children in a house where they continue to be abused, can not only result in the abusive spouse to lose custody of the children but it could also result in the State of California and County of Orange (generally through a dependency proceeding) to take the children away from both parents. That is why failing to protect the children is also an indirect form of abuse and parents who do not vigilantly protect the children can face loss of of their parental rights on a temporary or permanent basis.
Marriage Counseling in Serious Substance Abuse Cases
Drug and alcohol abuse results in many separations and divorces. In situations where only one spouse has the substance abuse problem, the non-using spouse can feel helpless, especially when he or she is financially dependent on the substance abuser. Compassion for substance abusers, especially loved ones, can be a necessary component of the road to recovery. However, if the substance abuse is long term and serious, a separation period may be necessary to protect the children. Those who abuse drugs or alcohol can exercise very poor judgment when they have care or custody of children. The children’s safety and welfare can be compromised. Similar to situations in which one parent must protect the children from a physically or sexually abusing other parent, a parent who faces another that abuses drugs or alcohol must separate the kids from such an environment of the using parent posing a risk of harm to the children.
How Do You Balance Reconciliation and Divorce?
You seek the advice of professionals. For questions about whether marriage counseling is right for you, you should speak with a licensed psychologist or therapist. For the legal consequences and options available to you in Family Court, contact our experienced divorce attorneys for a consultation.