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Forcing a 16 year old to attend counselling with estranged parent

I have another question.

This concerns a child who is nearly 16 (in a few months).  They are estranged from their other parent, no contact between them for 2.5 years.  The other parent has made no effort (no phone calls, no emails, no letters) claiming I have persistently alienated them from the child over the years.  The other parent has always had contact details (email, phone numbers, address etc), just doesn't utilise them.  Child has been angry and upset with the other parent for approximately  4 years, since finding written evidence that the other parent's partner didn't like them one bit and resented them coming on contact visits.  Up until 4 years ago, child always went to the other parent's house in line with the Orders.  Upon finding the upsetting letter written by the other parent's partner, contact became intermittent or was not spent at the house (due to the partner being there), but instead they would go out for lunches/milkshakes/movies etc.

The child has recently alleged abuse (once only) at the hands of the other parent's partner, occurring when they were a younger child.  Abuse allegations were investigated, police did not proceed due to circumstances, although claimed they believed the child and that it was deemed "inappropriate behaviour".

Child has stated repeatedly they do not want contact with their other parent or the partner.

Other parent wants the child to attend counselling in order to rebuild their relationship.  Other parent then wants contact at their house to resume with the child, being around 120 nights a year (by this stage child will well over 16 years of age and halfway through Year 11).

I initially supported the counselling between child and the other parent, but child has repeatedly stated they cannot be forced to attend counselling (with or without either of their parents), and will refuse to go/will get up and walk out/will refuse to get out of the car etc.  Child has already done this (refused to get out of the car and then caught the train home when I went into the counsellor's office) when attending "family counselling" with me.

Child appears really distressed at the prospect of more counselling, having had counselling for a few years, culminating in their full memories of the alleged abuse incident.

Can a "child" of 15 or 16 be forced to attend counselling with the other parent in order to rebuild their relationship?  I have always opposed the thought of them having no contact at all and would love for them to have an opportunity to rebuild their relationship (before child is an adult and it's too late), but can see the degree of resentment and anxiety the child haves with regards to seeing or speaking to the other parent (by the way, other parent has always denied the alleged abuse by their partner and claims I have coached the child for years).

Child has had some emotional and behavioural issues, mainly based around anger with the other parent, and fear that the other parent will try and see them without any warning, as has already happened when the other parent turned up unexpectedly at the school 2.5 years ago.  Child also has strong animosity towards the other parent's partner.

Surely by 16 a child has the right to refuse something they don't want to do?  I can't understand why the other parent continues to insist the child return to their home for such substantial time, especially given the child refuses to, and the other parent has made no effort to communicate with the child for 2.5 years?  But is now claiming this is due to me alienating the child against them?  This is heading to trial shortly, I can't understand how the Family Court can consider forcing a 16 year old to go somewhere they are adamant they do not want to go.

I personally think that you would have a better chance of nailing jelly to a tree than trying to compel a 16 year old into going for contact visits.

The childs wishes in this case will be taken into account, especially if they are a normal 15/16 year old with normal maturity levels.

In this case too, I think forcing contact will do more harm than good to the relationship.
I hear what you are saying. Just a thought/strategy to consider.
Perhaps you could encourage the child to attend the counseling. Why I hear you ask?

You could sell it as an opportunity for them to make their position clear to the other parent.
If you explain to them that a trial is likely and a judge may make a decision they don't like and the mess that may result. Then you could suggest they could agree, without orders, to attend just a couple of sessions of counseling, referring to it as lets say a "discussion forum" rather than counseling. Explain that it is not necessarily to come to any agreement, but so they can explain what they actually want and why.
This may, if you are lucky, cause the other party to see what is right and agree to what the child wants. It will certainly placate the other party to some extent as you have agreed to their request and they will feel they have the opportunity to speak to the child without the suspicion that she is being coerced and that it is coming directly from the child. It will give the child some feeling of having a say and having her feelings considered.
If nothing else at least it will negate an argument at court that you or the child refused to take part in any prior discussion. Additionally the child can bring up that they told them already what they want and thus will support your position if it goes to court.

"When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside can not hurt you"

Executive of SRL-Resources
I have suggested this quite a number of times to the child and they have adamantly refused to sit in the same room as the other parent/speak to him.  I have not advised the child that I have proposed Orders that they attend a minimum of 12 months counselling with the other parent in order to rebuild their relationship.

I am now wondering that despite me believing it may be in the child's best interests, how can I or a court possibly enforce them to attend?  How can a nearly 16-year old (well, they will be 16 by the time the hearing is over) be made to participate in counselling with the other parent?
The proposed orders seem that they are for the child. If this is the case I would suggest a court would not be likely to make them in this way. That is "The court hereby orders that the 16yo child XYZ attend counseling …." Off the top of my head I am wondering if the court even has the legislative authority to do so and that being the case if the proposed orders could even be approved by a court if made by consent. Having said that the only way to enforce such an order would be to breach the child and this would certainly be establishing a precedent. The paradox of these orders is also somewhat palpable.

Depending how the case is presented the court may well make orders for you to ensure you afford the child the opportunity, make available etc. That being the case you would obviously consent to this but have a proviso included that you only have to make the child available. That is; not take them on holiday or somehow prevent them going.  Really really make it clear that you do not oppose the order per se, but explain the child's feelings about it. Perhaps have something like, the child will be made available but if they contact the counselor directly and say they are not going they don't have to. Or something similar that is suitable.

 

"When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside can not hurt you"

Executive of SRL-Resources
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