Southern California Family Law Blog

child custody reunification therapy

Oftentimes during divorce, one parent becomes alienated from his children. Court ordered reunification therapy is meant to mend this parent-child relationship, but just how effective is it?

When a divorce turns nasty, parents fighting over the custody of their children will sometimes let their anger and frustration turn into spousal vilification. It’s easy enough to imagine; you have just gone through a life-changing series of events leading to divorce, and now your former spouse is trying to assert a legal authority over your children. You start to view them as hateful, spiteful, and an enemy to be resisted at every opportunity.

This level of animosity can lead to a situation where one parent tries to influence their children to turn against the former spouse. These children can develop what is known as “parental alienation syndrome,” essentially feeding off of the denigration of one parent by another.1 The children become resistant to visitation with the vilified parent, and this can create serious problems when a court is trying to decide custody issues.

Recently, a court in Michigan tried to combat the problem of parental alienation.2 Following a divorce in 2009, Omer Tsimhoni alleged that his ex-wife had turned their three children against him.3 The children eventually refused to abide by court orders to visit the father. The judge, after first ordering the children into juvenile detention for refusing to meet with the father, ordered the three children and the father to go through “reunification therapy.”4

What is Reunification Therapy?

This somewhat controversial therapy, often mandated through court order, is meant to repair strained child-parent relationships. The therapy spans several days, and includes therapists and social workers trained to encourage the development of trust and communication.5

The formerly estranged child and parent spend the time engaging in activities and exercises meant to reverse the negative image of the parent. This can sometimes be followed with court orders for the non-reunified parent to refrain from contacting the child for a short period.

While courts are experimenting with the use of reunification therapy in heated custody fights, some skeptics worry that issues of actual neglect by the vilified parent will be overlooked.6 These skeptics are also weary of diagnosing children with a disorder which may stem from actual abuse rather than a perceived abuse. They point out that “parental alienation syndrome” is not recognized as an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.7

The High Cost of Treatment

Reunification therapy comes with a large price tag. In Tsimhoni’s case, the cost was upwards of $30,000.8 Extensive training for the therapists running the treatment and the long hours needed to effectively complete it are the primary reasons why the price is so high. Unless the court orders otherwise, this cost is typically split between the two parents.

The high cost of such treatment and the emotional strain that comes with family legal battles makes it very important that you hire an experienced attorney to fight for you if you are going through divorce or custody proceedings.

Contact a Wallin & Klarich Family Law Attorney Today

At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled family law attorneys have been successfully representing our clients in family law and divorce matters for over 30 years.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, an experienced Wallin & Klarich child custody attorney can help you no matter your location.

Call us at (888) 749-7428 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

1. Gardner, Richard A. “Recent trends in divorce and custody litigation.” Academy forum. Vol. 29. No. 2. 1985.


3. Id.

4. Id.


6. Id.

7. Id.

8. Id.

Your Spouse May Recieve Part of Your Injury Settlement in a Divorce

We recently received a call from a spouse who filed a major personal injury lawsuit and was about to receive a major cash settlement. He was in the middle of a highly contested divorce and was very concerned about having to give his soon-to-be ex-wife any of the settlement money. The answer to his question is based entirely on when the injury happened. The answe… Continue Reading.......

Filing for an Annulment May Be Better than a Divorce

The end of a marriage is always sad. Emotions run high, with sound reasoning and logic often taking a backseat to anger and bitterness. But if you are going through this situation, it is important to carefully consider all of your options. While filing for divorce is usually the obvious choice, you may have a better outcome if you qualify for an annulment of the… Continue Reading.......

Should California Start a Child Support Amnesty Program?

The amount of child support payments that is past due in California is quite staggering. In 2003, the number was $14.4 billion.1 By 2011, that amount rose to a near-record $19.2 billion.2 Child support delinquency is not an issue confined to California, either. In 2010, nationwide unpaid child support reached more than $110 billion.3 This staggering amou… Continue Reading.......

Can my spouse sell our community property before the divorce?

When a complaint for divorce is filed in California, automatic temporary restraining orders (ATROs) come into play. As soon as the other spouse is served, then the ATRO applies to both parties. The ATROs maintain the existing state of the marriage so that there is no attempt to hide or encumber assets and property. They prevent either party from removing ch… Continue Reading.......