Therapists often find themselves involved in child custody disputes. Either the therapist was involved before the parents filed for divorce, or the parents or the court may identify a therapist to see the children during the midst of their pending litigation. However a therapist may end up in your case, it is important to remember that they are there to help your children, and they are not there to help your litigation, though they may serve this roll as well at some point.
Therapists are rarely trained in their education to know what to do when faced with a family involved in active litigation, and because of this lack of training, well-meaning therapists will often find themselves in a position where they are either making custody recommendations on their own accord out of a perceived belief that they are helping your child, or they are asked by an attorney or a Judge to make a recommendation regarding a parent’s possession and access. However, it has always been unethical for a therapist to make custody recommendations, and now, it is in violation of the Texas Family Code as well.
104.008 of the Texas Family Code, which became effective on March 1, 2016, specifically states that therapists cannot make recommendations for possession and access, though they can certainly testify to their assessments, their observations, and their treatment plan for their client. In addition, a therapist’s ethical code also prohibits a therapist from making assessments of someone that they have not evaluated, and this is the reason that a therapist cannot recommend supervised access, for example, for a parent who they have never met or only met in the realm of a parent consult.
So, if you are thinking about identifying a therapist for your child in the midst of your divorce or modification proceedings, I would encourage you to identify a forensically trained therapist who knows these limitations and how to best help your child, and potentially your case, by maintaining those boundaries; while actively involving both parents. However, if you already have a therapist involved in your case, be sure that they are not asked to provide a recommendation and that they are discouraged from doing so in order to ensure that the significant information that they do have to offer your case is not tainted by a recommendation that they cannot make.
Christy Bradshaw Schmidt, MA, LPC
Child Custody Evaluator/Expert Consultant