The Role of Mental Health Professionals in Family Law

The Role of Mental Health Professionals in Family Law

Family law is one of the most emotionally charged areas of the law.  Clients are experiencing an upheaval of their family life, finances and living situation.  Clients sometimes feel hurt or angry at the demise of the marriage and children often feel stuck in the middle of their parents’ disagreements.  While it is critical to have an experienced family law attorney to handle the litigation aspect of a family law case, it can be equally as important to have knowledgeable mental health professionals to guide your family through the tumultuous process of litigation.  Mental health professionals can be social workers, licensed professional counselors, doctorate-level Ph.D.’s or other various providers.  In most cases, the nature of the professional’s education is not always as important as his or her experience with the dynamics of family law cases.

Co-Parent Counselors

Co-parent counselors are mental health professionals that meet with parents to facilitate a more productive co-parenting relationship.  Children fare much better with the separation of their parents when the parents are able to effectively communicate and co-parent.  Co-parent counselors can be court-appointed or chosen by the parties.  These counselors are effective in helping the parties to address day-to-day custody decisions without the need to seek out litigation remedies each and every time the agreement cannot be reached on a particular issue.

Reunification Counselors

Reunification counselors are mental health professionals that are involved in cases where one parent has been estranged or alienated from the child.  Reunification counselors are experienced in understanding the source of estrangement and/or alienation as well as the appropriate remedy.  This type of counseling attempts to heal the damaged parent-child relationship and works toward building a healthy relationship between the parent and child.  Reunification counselors are effective in cases of parental alienation or when a child has not seen a parent for an extended period of time.

Expert Witnesses

There are many types of mental health professionals that can serve as expert witnesses in a custody case.  Generally speaking, these professionals are qualified as an expert by their knowledge, skill, experience, training or education and may provide an opinion to the court.  For example, custody evaluators conduct an extensive evaluation of the parties and children and make a recommendation to the court regarding custody.  Some cases call for mental health evaluations for psychological disorders.  In others, we seek out experts for drug and alcohol evaluations.

At LaMonaca Law, we have an extensive network of mental health professionals that we work with on a daily basis to assist with all aspects of a family law case.  To discuss whether a mental health professional is right for your case, call or click to speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys.

About the author

About Melissa Towsey

Melissa graduated from the University of Virginia in 2002 with a double major in Sociology and Foreign Affairs. After working for several years as a paralegal in Washington, D.C., she attended The University of Villanova School of Law and graduated in 2010. During law school, Melissa was involved in several public interest organizations and published an article in Villanova’s Environmental Law Journal, “Something Stinks: The Need for Environmental Regulation of Puppy Mills” 21 Vill. Envtl. L.J. 159 (2010) http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arus21villenvtllj159.htm. After law school, Melissa clerked for the Honorable Thomas G. Parisi, Administrative Judge of the Criminal Division in the Court of Common Pleas, Berks County.