Definition of “reunification” as found in the online Dictionary: “To cause (a group, party, state, or sect) to become unified again after being divided.”
Definition of “therapy” by the American Psychological Association” “Therapy is a treatment for psychological problems in which the therapist and clients work together to understand problems and come up with plans for fixing them.”
When the two words, “reunification” and “therapy” are put together in the legal sense, an interesting process is becoming more and more useful, especially in Family law involving cases of dissolution of marriage where there are minor children involved. Reunification therapy, known as RT has developed because more and more family courts are seeing minor children highly affected by the breakup of their parents’ relationship, be it marriage or cohabitation. All too often one parent or the other is not seeing or visiting with their child which, in the state of Florida, will unlikely not continue as the statutes in Florida no longer have primary custody (sole custody is still granted in certain, specific situations) but use the concept of shared responsibility termed “parental timesharing”. Florida’s legal motto for raising children is “in the best interest of the child” so family courts now do whatever they can to make sure both parents interact with their children and take a responsible part in their care and nurturing. When a parent-child relationship has become estranged, the courts are using reunification therapy to help “put the parent-child relationship back together again”.
RT requires a court order and to allow RT to be ordered by the court, the parents must first go to mediation. Here an agreement is made with the parent not having contact with their child to request reunification therapy to help allow a relationship between the child and the estranged parent to develop. The family court will then appoint a qualified therapist to work with the child and reunifying parent. As the RT is court ordered the therapist must report back to the court any important findings so information collected is not confidential. The court sets goals and expectations for RT and the court order requires the cooperation of both parents. Records of both parents including medical, and court convictions of any kind must be made available to the therapist.
It has been found that using individual therapists for each parent and the child separately has made reunification therapy more successful. Each person then feels freer to express his or her feelings. Joint sessions will take place when therapists feel their clients are ready, as will actual contact visits with the child and reunifying parent. Most cases require a minimum of eight to twelve weekly sessions. Each therapist is required to keep the court informed regarding the sessions with a final, written report at the conclusion. Time is proving that reunification therapy is a great help in bringing children together with both parents, particularly at a time such as a dissolution of marriage when children are often the most vulnerable to feelings of grief, abandonment, and anger.