Will I Have to Have a Psychological Evaluation to Get Custody?
When parents cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, family courts will often order a psychological evaluation to help them determine which custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the child. In such cases, child custody evaluators are used to conduct the evaluation process. These evaluators use psychological testing, interviews, and assessments to determine the fitness of each parent seeking custody. There is some question as to the accuracy and validity of these evaluations on which child custody orders may be based.
If you are involved in a custody battle in California, it is crucial to be represented by an experienced lawyer. Contact Mattis Law, A.P.C. at (858) 458-9500 to get a seasoned San Diego Child Custody Attorney by your side.
What Do Child Custody Evaluators Do?
Child custody evaluators have specific responsibilities in a psychological evaluation conducted to help determine custody. Among other responsibilities, evaluators are required to:
- Limit psychological trauma to the child as much as possible.
- Provide an analysis in accordance with the requirements of the court, including an explanation of how the interpretations and findings relate to the child’s need for development, how the child relates with each parent, the quality of environment each parent can provide, and any feedback from the child concerning the issues being managed by the court.
- Review any past law enforcement or agency records related to the issues.
- Observe interactions between each parent and the child.
- Interview both parents, either separately or together.
- Report the historical parenting arrangement the child has experienced.
- Report any concerns regarding mental illness, domestic abuse, child abuse, or substance abuse.
- Interview others beyond the immediate family, such as siblings, stepparents, etc., to gather information and observations.
- Make a temporary or interim custody recommendation if necessary.
Problems with Child Custody Evaluations
As stated in a recent article in The Sun written by a licensed therapist, child custody psychological testing can sometimes produce misleading results. In these tests, victims of domestic violence often come across as over-reactive, anxious, or paranoid, while perpetrators of the violence appear to be calm, thoughtful, and methodical.
Another concern is the possibility of bias on the part of evaluators. As stated in a Huffington Post article, the primary purpose of custody evaluations is to provide neutral, objective information and expert opinions to the court when a custody dispute involves allegations of physical or emotional harm to the child. To fulfill this purpose, custody evaluators must be as free of bias as possible. However, some custody evaluator organizations redact any attorney names from all papers and documents the evaluators receive, to help them maintain an objective, unbiased perspective. This practice is based on a “compelling body of research” showing that custody evaluators can be biased for or against a particular parent based on their likes or dislikes of the attorney representing that parent. The question is: How many other biases do custody evaluators have that can impact the results of the evaluation?
What Role Does Your Attorney Play in a Child Custody Evaluation?
Family law courts may select an evaluator or ask the parties to submit a list of evaluators, from which the judge will choose. Our San Diego Child Custody Lawyers can help ensure a suitable evaluator is selected for your child custody evaluation. We can also make suggestions based on our experience with a particular evaluator. If you disagree with the evaluator’s report, we can refute the findings on your behalf. In this situation, we will have another mental health professional review the evaluation and testify in court about its shortcomings or issues. It is ultimately the judge who decides the child custody arrangement for your child. Call Mattis Law, A.P.C. today to speak to an experienced San Diego Family Law Attorney to provide sound legal guidance in your child custody evaluation.