Whether pre-separation or post-separation, there may be challenges to the relationship between a parent and child. While co-residing, contact is continued as a matter of course being in the same home together. However, post-separation, those relationship difficulties may culminate into parent-child contact problems.
There are many theories as to why and how those difficulties emerge, but in some cases, it escalates to no contact between a parent and a child.
In cases where it has been determined that there is no evidence that the child will be harmed by contact, and where the affected parent seeks contact, reunification counselling may be suggested or even court-ordered to facilitate the child and parent’s contact and relationship.
It is recognized by the courts that a relationship between a child and both parents post-separation typically provides for a better long-term outcome for the child. These considerations can prove controversial and may not be accepted by some parents.
There are a number of steps to reunification counselling just to facilitate the referral. Those steps may include:
1. Conversation with both lawyers if lawyers are involved;
2. Conversations with both parents;
3. Screening for domestic violence and power imbalances;
4. Review of available court documents and assessments.
Assuming the process continues to the reunification counselling stage, it is likely that both parents will be involved to some degree or another prior to meetings with a child and affected parent.
It is known that for the affected parent, the process often cannot proceed quickly enough and that for the other parent, it may be perceived as progressing too quickly. As for the child, there is often a significant amount of anxiety involved in these initial stages. Typically, the child is not involved in the process leading up to the initiation of their actual involvement to limit their concern and anxiety.
Because of the tensions involved, the process is usually determined by the reunification counsellor knowing that neither parent will likely be pleased, at least to start. There is often a court-involved component with reporting obligation to the court by the reunification counsellor to assure compliance to the reunification plan.