Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services


Counselor Education and Supervision

Committee Director

Theodore P. Remley, Jr.

Committee Member

Laurie Craigen

Committee Member

Karen Sanzo


Professional school counselors are often confronted with a myriad of legal and ethical challenges when working with students and their families. While school counselors are discouraged from becoming involved in child custody matters, many are unable to avoid the process for a variety of reasons. This qualitative phenomenological research inquiry explored professional school counselors' experiences with court involvement in child custody matters and sought to understand how such experiences may have affected how they perceive their role in assisting children and families who are undergoing divorce, separation, or child custody disputes. A series of semi-structured interview questions and a written reflection were utilized with a random purposeful, convenience, and snowball sample of nine professional school counselors from a school division in Virginia. Findings suggest that experiencing court involvement for child custody matters presents various concerns for school counselors including uncomfortable feelings and interactions, personal and professional inconveniences, unpreparedness, and ethical dilemmas. These concerns subsequently impact the work of school counselors with children and families. Implications for school counselors, parents and guardians, legal personnel, counselor educators, supervisors, and professional associations are discussed.