- Center for Ethical Practice - https://centerforethicalpractice.org -

Working With Separating & Divorcing Families

Ethical & Legal Issues for Therapists

Do our Ethics Codes have anything special to say about working with families that are separating, facing divorce, or already divorced – or about working with families facing contested child custody issues?  Does Virginia law have anything particular to say that affects how we work with these families, or what we explain in advance about our roles and our policies about confidentiality?  Are there particular ethical or legal risks for therapists who work with members of these families, and if so, how can we avoid or minimize these risks?

I. Roles of Mental Health Professionals

Therapist to Individual Parent
Therapist to Parent Couple
Therapist to Family
Therapist to Individual Child
Parent Consultant (to one or both parents)
Evaluator (Cognitive, Psychological or Educational Assessment)
Forensic Specialist
Custody Evaluator
Expert Witness
Parenting Coordinator

II. Understandings With Referral Sources (“Who Is The Client ?”)

Social Services
Attorney for One Party

III. Ethical, Legal & Clinical Issues

Informed Consent Complications

Who Must We Inform? About What?
Who Must Give Consent? To What?
Who Must Assent? To What?

Case “Construction”
Role Confusion
Role Multiplication
Involuntary Forensic Involvement
Developing and Maintaining Professional Competence

Educational Goals:
1. Describe ethical issues that might arise with separating and divorcing families;
2. Explain the legal issues most likely to apply with these families;
3. Recognize the range of roles for mental health professionals with these families;
4. Assess the ethical and legal implications of these clinical roles.