I recently attended a family law “study group” sponsored by White, Zuckerman, Warsavsky, Luna & Hunt and the speaker was a mental health professional who spoke on the subject of “reunification therapy”. I thought she gave a good presentation and I asked her if she would care to provide a guest blog article covering the role of the mental health professional in marital dissolutions. She readily agreed and the following is her initial article:
Carolyn Cater Nishimoto, MSW, L.C.S.W.
1633 E. Fourth Street, Suite 144
Santa Ana, CA 92701
At best divorce is an emotional and traumatic situation. When children are involved, the emotional difficulties are much greater. Children commonly face anxiety and sadness when they learn that their parents are contemplating dissolution of their marriage. To minimize this anxiety, it is beneficial if the parents can at least come to an agreement and create a plan to approach the situation with the children in a positive manner. This plan should include, prior to filing a petition for dissolution and making custody arrangements, a meeting with a mental health professional that is knowledgeable in family law matters. A mental health professional with experience in this area will be able to discuss your specific situation with you and help you create various versions of time-share plans, strategies to deal with common adjustment difficulties that children experience during divorce, and provide education about productive communication and co-parenting strategies.
Your children will need your help to cope and they will rely on you to be calm and forthright during this difficult time. Obviously, this will be a challenge for you, as you are experiencing your own bundle of emotions. However, your children should be your priority and a good mental health professional should be able to assist both spouses in providing children with the support they need. The effort you make in this area to ensure a smooth transition for the children will also help your mental health and have a positive impact on your ability to work with the other party going forward.
In addition to serving as the initial consultant, mental health professionals experienced in the family law field can play a variety of other important roles in the marriage dissolution process including: Mediator of co-parenting sessions, Case Manager/Parent Coordinator, Reunification Therapist, and Child Custody Evaluator. Please consult with your family law attorney to determine which of these services may be required in your situation.
Ms. Nishimoto has graciously agreed to provide future guest blog posts covering these other roles of mental health professionals in the marriage dissolution process so please stay tuned.