Court-Ordered Counseling in Divorce Cases
Attorneys are often asked, usually by one person in a divorce proceeding, if the court can or will order the divorcing couple to attend counseling. In most cases, the court can and will order the parties to attend counseling upon a timely request.
In some cases, the court has to order counseling. In others, the court has discretion. The determining factor is the time at which counseling is requested.
Iowa Code section 598.16 provides that the court must order counseling if either party asks for it in his or her initial documents filed in the case. The court also must order counseling if an appointed guardian ad litem for the parties' children request it. The counseling must be completed within sixty days from the court's order.
After the initial documents are filed, either on its own or on the request of a party, the court may require the parties to participate in counseling for 60 days or less.
The course will not require counseling in situations where there has been a history of domestic or elder abuse. However, the party alleging abuse and seeking to avoid counseling must draw the matter to the court's attention.
In cases in which the court orders counseling, the counselor has to file a written report by a date specified in the court's order to attend counseling. The parties, with some exceptions, will be required to pay the costs of counseling.
Practically, if one party wants to get divorced and has made up his or her mind to do so, counseling will have little effect. However, in some cases, where neither party really desires that a marriage end, counseling can be beneficial. Each case is unique. If you are going through a divorce and think counseling can save your marriage, you may want to talk to your attorney about it. Your attorney can help you decide if you should ask the court to order counseling.