Question asked on Mar 06th, 2017

Q: She says she’s “not emotionally ready” to start seeing her father. He held her (and sister, mother) hostage when he was crazed out on Methamphetamine 2 years ago. Up to that point he had been psychologically and emotionally abusing her (and her family) for about 4 years. She has been in therapy for the past 2 years and has made great progress. She is extremely mature for her age. She comes out of the reunification therapy sobbing and emotionally distraught, saying the therapist is going too fast and that she “bullies” her and her sister. She says she can not speak her mind or talk about what she needs to talk about. She says the reunification therapy is “all about him (her father)”. Does she have any rights? The emotional abuse is well documented by her therapists and of court record. We are in Reno, NV (if that’s pertinent), and I have sole custody and share 50/50 legal with their father… thank you!

A: This subject was a topic examined at the annual Family Law Conference about 2 weeks ago, attended by many family law attorneys and judges.  Yes, the child has “rights” — but one of those is to have a healthy relationship with two parents, if that is possible.  The expert who lectured, reviewing the literature and studies, indicated that in virtually every case of estangement, the children affected are generally benefited by reunification.  That said, every case is different and no child should be put in a position of continuing abuse — but it is not at all clear from your description that such would occur if reunification was completed.  If you think the therapist is not competently performing the task assigned by the judge, or safeguards regarding potential future abuse are lacking, work with counsel to get clearance for a file review or second opinion by an expert in reunification psychology.

Marshal S. Willick