From the Therapist's Desk


The custodial parent is a critical part of the process of restructuring a family when an estranged parent is going to be reintegrated. The issues and questions for the primary parent depend on the circumstances of the other parent's absence and the motivation for reentry.

Questions for the estranged parent:

1 Are you committed to sustaining a consistent relationship if you re-enter the child's life? This means consistently showing up for parenting time and meeting other obligations. Part of the risk for a custodial parent cooperating with a reunification process is that you may disappear again and they will be left to pick up the pieces of their child's life.

2 Do you have the parenting skills you need to care for the child? Are you willing to take a parenting skills class?

3 If you had unsafe behaviors in your life, you need to be able to demonstrate change. If alcohol and/or drug issues played a role in your absence what evidence of sustained sobriety can you show the other parent? What are your plans for relapse prevention? If domestic violence is in your history have you completed an anger management or DV class? Do you have ways to express your anger that do not involve harm to self and others?

4 Be prepared to answer the question "why now?" The custodial parent may harbor feelings of resentment and believe you now want to come in and be the 'hero' or 'heroine.' You will need to demonstrate that you're not just there for the good times.

5 Are you providing economic support? If not, are you planning on doing that? If you have been negligent or inconsistent in providing financial support for your child, begin right away with whatever you can!

6 If the custodial parent has worked to eliminate you from your child's life because of unresolved issues in the couples relationship, are you ready to sit down for high conflict coparenting therapy with the custodial parent to resolve these old wounds for the sake of your child?

Reunification after a period of estrangement in a parent-child relationship is a very serious undertaking for both parents. Be ready to stay and work and build the trust needed to be successful in the process.