Sometimes spouses disagree about whether divorce is best for them and their family. A husband or wife may feel that all options have not been fully explored and the marriage can still be saved. If one spouse does not want a divorce, can a judge order counseling?
Whether right or wrong, under Texas law either spouse may end a marriage regardless of the other’s opinion. Texas’ version of no-fault divorce can be found in section 6.001 of the Family Code. A divorce may be granted “if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Typically, if one spouse testifies that the marriage has become legally insupportable, a divorce will be granted.
Can A Texas Judge Order Counseling?
Texas Family Code section 6.505 permits a judge to order counseling before granting a divorce. In practice, that provision is rarely used. Judges generally assume that it will be a waste of time and money to order a person to sit with a therapist after they have already filed for divorce. A person who wants a divorce can be ordered to sit in a therapist’s office but cannot be compelled to participate in the process.
Most therapists will acknowledge that saving a troubled marriage is difficult when both spouses are voluntarily attending counseling. It would probably be a waste of time to order counseling when one spouse has no interest in saving the marriage.
Section 6.505(b) even allows a judge to order the person appointed as a counselor to submit a written report stating an opinion about whether there is a reasonable expectation of reconciliation and whether additional counseling would be beneficial. A judge may order further counseling, including issues that confront children when their parents are involved in litigation. Interestingly, section 6.505 does not require any minimum educational or training requirements for the appointed counselor.
Don’t Expect A Judge To Be A Therapist
Ultimately, judges are lawyers, not therapists. The prevailing view is if a person makes the decision to find a lawyer, makes an appointment, pays the lawyer, requests that a divorce is filed, and then opposes a motion to compel counseling, ordering that person to spend an hour a week listening to a counselor is not going to fix the marriage. If judges were therapists, the attitude might be different. Another reason a judge is unlikely to order counseling is the minimal requirement for divorce: Discord or conflict of personalities and no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of an unwanted divorce, you should do two things:
- Find an experienced family law attorney; and
- Choose a therapist with whom you are comfortable
The lawyer is necessary because divorce is a legal process. Divorce is also very emotional. Having someone whose education and training can help you deal with those aspects is crucial.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein in intended for informational purposes only and should not be as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
© Copyright Brian McNamara 2016, may be reproduced with credit to the author.