Can a Judge Order Marriage Counseling?


In Florida law, a divorce can be granted by the court for two reasons: if one party is determined to have a mental incapacity for the previous three years or if the marriage is irretrievably broken. To establish the latter, either both parties in the divorce filing must agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken, or the court must establish it. If the responding party denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken or there is a child who is a minor in the family or both, the court will act according to Florida Statute Chapter 61.052, Dissolution of Marriage. What does this mean, though? Can a judge order marriage counseling when this happens?

Here is a quick guide to help you through the process and what actions the court might take.

A Judge Can Order Court-Acceptable Counseling in Florida

The first of three actions listed in that chapter of Florida’s Statutes is to order the couple to consult a marriage counselor. So, the short answer to “Can a judge order marriage counseling in Florida?” is yes, they can!

The counselor must be someone that the court finds qualified for this purpose and can include the following:

  • Religious figure—a licensed minister, priest, rabbi, and so on
  • Psychologist or psychiatrist—fully trained and licensed according to Florida’s regulations
  • Family counselors—fully trained and licensed according to Florida’s regulations

The choice of marriage counselor must also be deemed acceptable by both parties of the divorce proceedings before any consultations or sessions. This ensures that they are neutral and neither party later complains.

A Court Can Allow for Reconciliation

The second court action is to continue the divorce proceedings for a period of no more than three months. This is to allow for the couple to potentially reconcile either on their own or during marriage counseling or for it to be made clear to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken regardless of the respondent’s denial. Here is how reconciliation works:

  1. Fill out the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal form.
  2. Present the original form to the same Clerk of the Circuit Court where the original divorce filing was made.
  3. Both parties explain wanting to stop the divorce process and resume their marriage.
  4. Distribute copies of the Notice to every party involved in the divorce proceedings (lawyers, spouses, court officials, marriage counselors, etc.)

If there is no reconciliation in this three-month period, the court will decide if the marriage is irretrievably broken based on all evidence, testimony, and court interactions between each party.

A Court Can Take Action in the Best Interests of The Child & Marriage

The court might also take specific actions in the best interests of any minor children in the marriage and in the best interests of the marriage parties. They will base these actions on the following criteria:

  • Health and safety—if there is any evidence of abuse or neglect of both children and spouse
  • Emotion and development—the extent to which each spouse meets the needs of the child first and the other spouse second
  • Positive communication—both spouses are encouraged to co-parent and interact positively about and around their children
  • Moral fitness—if there is any evidence of frequent cheating or substance abuse and other illegal activities that could impact the children and spouse

Testimony and evidence will be taken to establish any of the above, and if they are established, the court will act to protect the safety and well-being of the children and the spouse. For more information, contact a Tampa divorce attorney at our firm.

Contact Our Experienced, Dedicated Divorce & Family Law Lawyers Today

As a dedicated family law practice in the Tampa Bay area, we work one on one with our clients, resulting in representation that is characterized by genuine care and understanding. If you are dealing with divorce or other family law issues, please contact at 813-223-7739  to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family and divorce attorneys.