Especially in proceedings concerning custody and visitation, the conflicts are intense. Unfortunately, especially in disputes about children, the conflict sometimes threatens to escalate in court. Apart from the fact that there is hardly anything closer to one’s heart than one’s own child, family law conflicts often touch on the parents’ own issues, which may be based on past experiences. Particularly in questions concerning custody or visitation psychotherapeutic support for the parents is sometimes considered advisable. Legally, however, the question arises as to whether the court may order any form of therapy or counselling for a person at all.
Court-ordered therapy for parents in cusoty proceedings?
In custody court proceedings, the focus is on the best interests of the child. This is both important, so that children are not at risk of being torn between parents. In connection with custody or visitation proceedings, the court must first order the supportive measures necessary to ensure the best interests of the child.
Legally, the court does have the possibility to oblige parents to participate in family, parenting or educational counselling. The purpose of such counselling is to enable parents to improve their communication and to develop an understanding of their children’s developmental needs and concerns. All this can help to promote the best interests of the child. Children also witness their parents’ conflicts and suffer as a result. It is not uncommon for children to get caught in a conflict of loyalties. In the best case, such parent counselling should relieve and support the children. Often, parent counselling, which may be ordered for a few hours, can lead to an actual improvement in the parents’ basis for discussion. In many cases, especially when the situation between the parents is very complicated, each parent starts with individual counselling. The goal, however, is of course ultimately to be able to have joint discussions. It is also possible to oblige the parents to participate in an initial meeting through mediation or through a conciliation procedure. This participation is also enforceable.
Anti Aggression Training
Violence against children is forbidden and must be fundamentally rejected. If a parent uses violence against the children, this can lead to the loss of custody. If a parent tends to be aggressive, he or she can be obliged to undergo anti-violence training or anti-aggression training.
Arrangement of psychotherapy or family therapy?
Judicial obligation for counselling or training in connection with violence or aggression or also for parenting counselling is possible. However, there are limits. No one is compelled to undergo therapy, even in family law proceedings. The obligation to participate in psychotherapeutic treatment, family therapy or comparable measures is not permitted. This means that a clear distinction is made between counselling and therapy, which is intended to alleviate symptoms or change behaviour and attitudes. This also corresponds to the Psychotherapy Act, according to which therapy must be voluntary. A court order for psychotherapy or family therapy is perceived as a disproportionate encroachment of personal rights of the parties to the proceedings.