Do Both Parents Need to Consent for Therapy?

a man and a woman sitting in chairs in a room with a clock

Going through a divorce can be extremely difficult, but it’s even more challenging when there are children involved. The divorce rate in New York State is 8.7 percent, so it’s not unlikely that you or someone you know might end up getting one. While it’s obviously a very painful time, there are many things you can do to help yourself and your children get through it. Putting your children into therapy in New York City is a great way to help them process the fact that their parents will no longer be together. Here’s what you need to know about getting your children therapy.

Why do it?

If you’re struggling to process the divorce yourself, you might be questioning how therapy would benefit your children. You might be tempted to simply tell your children it’s not their fault and move on, but you would be mistaken in thinking your kids don’t know what’s going on. Your kids are seeing everything that is happening between you and your spouse, but their brains don’t know how to handle the occurrences. Therapy can help your children understand what their lives will be like now and give them the tools to handle the serious changes that are coming their way. Ignoring the divorce and pretending like nothing has changed is a step in the wrong direction for you and your family. You and your spouse need to acknowledge what has occurred and help your children find ways to cope with their new lives.

Who can put the children in therapy?

Chances are, you and your spouse might disagree on the need for therapy. One of you might firmly believe that discussing the situation with a licensed professional would be beneficial, while the other spouse might be convinced that it will more severely traumatize the children. Do both of you need to agree in order to get the children therapy?  

It’s important that you understand the basics of child custody. The custody of your children has been awarded to one or both of you during the divorce proceedings. Whoever has legal custody of the children is the one who must consent to therapy. For example, parent A has legal custody of the child and would like to enroll them in therapy. Parent B disagrees, but because parent B was not granted any custody during the divorce, parent B cannot legally stop the child from receiving therapy.

If the parents have joint legal custody, then both parents have a legal right to make decisions for the child. In this scenario, only one parent is needed to consent to therapy for the children. However, if the therapist knows or suspects that the other parent would most likely object to therapy, the therapist may decide that he or she cannot proceed without both parents’ consent. Gaining consent from both parents will put the therapist in a much better legal and moral position.

What is the benefit of consent from both parents?

Though it is not necessarily legally required for a therapist to obtain consent from both parents, it might be in the therapist’s and the child’s best interests. If a child spends equal time with both parents, the therapist will want to know how the child does in both homes. Communicating with each parent will be the best way for the clinician to understand the child’s behaviors and ability to cope with the divorce. Talking with both parents is also the best way for the therapist to receive background information, such as the family’s medical history. Ultimately, if a child is in the joint custody of his or her parents, it makes the most sense for the therapist to obtain consent from both parents.

Therapy can be a wonderful resource for children who are experiencing divorce. If you are going through a divorce, make sure you understand the legal ramifications of your custody.