How Does Parent-Child Reunification Work?

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In some divorces, one parent may try to unreasonably interfere with the relationship between the other parent and their children. Parents who act in this way can face serious repercussions from the court particularly if their conduct rises to the level of parental alienation. This could include losing custody or other restrictions. In addition, the court may try to rectify the situation by ordering a reunification process to help reestablish the relationship between the alienated parent and the children.

New York Custody Law

In determining custody, courts will weigh various factors including “[e]ach parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent and to encourage a relationship with him or her, when it is safe to do so.” As a result, judges will not allow a parent to get in the way of the other parent’s relationship with the children without a showing of abuse or neglect of the children. 

Parents must take care not to criticize each other, interfere with parenting time or pressure children to pick sides because they risk the judge holding it against them if and when custody and visitation are decided to the extent these issues are brought before a court.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation typically occurs when a child refuses to see one parent due to the other parent’s behavior that created or exacerbated the child’s animosity towards the parent being alienated. Often, it involves a parent making up false claims of abuse to the child or engaging in other serious conduct that results in the child deciding that he or she will not see or speak with the alienated parent anymore.

Reunification Process and Reunification Camps

Where a parent has been alienated from the child, the court will look to reunite the child and parent. This may include requiring that the parent who made false accusations or engaged in alienating behavior correct his or her actions. 

In addition, the court may order a reunification process to help rehabilitate the relationship between parent and child. Typically, mental health professionals are involved to guide this process. 

A reunification camp that specializes in assisting parents with reestablishing their relationship with their children may be used. The children are required to go to the camp with the alienated parent and go through therapy. 

Whether sending the parent and child to a reunification camp is necessary should be determined in conjunction with mental health professionals. Some camps have been criticized for their techniques. Forcing children to attend the camp may not be recommended in certain circumstances. Each child and parent-child relationship is different and the goal is to do what is best for the child.

If you are experiencing conflicts with your ex regarding child custody or visitation, it is critical to contact an attorney. Document what your ex is doing and saying and consult an attorney to discuss how to address your concerns. If you need assistance, contact us for consultation.

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