Therapy can be an excellent way for children to deal with their emotions during a divorce. Your child might also benefit from therapy years after a divorce for issues unrelated to the divorce. Regardless of when and why, if you decide your child should see a therapist you will likely need to work out the details with your co-parent. A Murfreesboro child custody lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby discusses how to navigate child therapy with a co-parent.
Deciding on Therapy
The first hurdle to co-parenting when your child needs therapy is the decision to seek professional help from a therapist. If you are still in the middle of a divorce, and custody is a contested issue, the court might order an evaluation by a therapist as part of an overall custody evaluation. In that case, both you and your spouse will need to abide by the court’s order and will likely need to agree on the therapist chosen to conduct the evaluation.
If, however, therapy is not part of a court order, you should discuss the idea with your co-parent early on. In fact, the terms of your parenting plan may require you to notify the co-parent or even get his/her consent. In Tennessee, the “primary residential parent” is the parent with whom the child lives most of the time and the “alternative residential parent” is used to refer to the other parent. If you are the primary residential parent, you may also have ultimate decision-making authority. If so, you may have the legal authority necessary to make important decisions, including the need for therapy, for your minor child. If you have joint decision-making authority, it means that your co-parent needs to agree with the decision whereas if the other parent has ultimate decision-making authority, he/she can make the decision. If you are uncertain of your decision-making authority, consult with an attorney before moving forward with therapy, especially if your co-parent seems resistant to the idea.
Tips for Co-Parents When a Child Needs Therapy
If you are certain that the legal road is clear for you to move forward with therapy for your child, the next hurdle is to get through selecting a therapist and scheduling therapy sessions with your co-parent. The following tips can help:
- Include your co-parent when choosing a therapist. Even if you legally have the right to decide therapy is necessary and choose a therapist without the other parent’s input, it is always best to get that input when possible.
- Decide who will pay for therapy. Mental health therapy can be expensive and is not always covered by insurance. Before you start actively looking for a therapist, check your child’s insurance policy to see if therapy is covered. If it is not, or if a co-pay/deductible applies, get an agreement (in writing preferably) from your co-parent regarding who will pay and how the payments will be made.
- Get recommendations. This is a great opportunity to include your child’s other parent in the process. Both of you can ask friends, family members, and even co-workers for recommendations for a therapist and then compare notes and choose one together.
- Schedule a meeting with both parents first. If you and your co-parent have a good relationship, you should both meet with the therapist together before your child has his/her first meeting. If that is not an option, offer your co-parent the option to schedule his/her own appointment prior to your child meeting with the therapist.
- Share your child’s progress with your co-parent. You may be required under the terms of your divorce to share important health information with your co-parent. Exactly how much detail you share may depend on the terms of your parenting plan and/or your child’s wishes and needs.
- Remember that this is not YOUR therapy. Keep in mind that your child’s therapist is supposed to be helping your child, not you. Do not try to influence the therapist or ask the therapist to resolve conflicts you have with your child’s other parent. Your child’s therapy sessions should focus only on issues he/she needs help with and not on your personal issues.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Custody Lawyer
If you have additional questions about navigating child therapy with a co-parent, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child custody lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.