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Using Forensic Psychologists As Experts In Custody Cases

father's rights lawyerIn a custody case, each parent seeks to prove to the court that it is in the child’s best interest that they receive residential custody of the children. To accomplish this goal, evidence must be submitted establishing that the parent advocating for custody is actually the parent that would provide a better, nurturing life situation for the children.

How is this done? One of the ways of establishing one parent being a better parent or having better skills to raise the children is to cause both parents to be evaluated by a forensic expert with the hope each parent’s expert comes down on their side for custody. It is important to utilize a forensic expert to avoid each of the parents telling the judge why he or she is the better parent. Although this can provide the judge with some material that would enable him or her to make a decision, it is generally not sufficient. A forensic expert’s testimony can back up a litigant’s arguments and statements, they would be the parent to enhance the children’s lives and therefore they should be awarded residential custody of the children by the court.

How Do Forensic Experts Operate?

The forensic psychologist will usually have a series of interviews with each of the parents. In addition, the forensic psychologist will interview the children separately and usually in the custody of each of the parents. The forensic psychologist will also have the parents take a variety of psychological tests. In addition, the expert will look into issues as to whether the parents have drug or alcohol problems, have a history of abuse or neglect, and investigate other issues with regard to the parent’s abilities to raise the children. In addition, the forensic experts will usually interview any third parties who reside with each of the parents. The forensic expert seeks to observe each parent’s interaction with the children during their interviews while the child is present. Forensic experts will also review court records and other information related to the case. In some situations, a forensic expert will review school records and speak to the children’s teachers.

Custody Decisions

The forensic expert makes recommendations to the judge handling the custody case. The judge, based on evidence submitted in court, the testimony of the parties and third parties, and the report submitted by the forensic expert renders a decision as to who should be the residential custodial parent of the children. The basis of the court’s decision is what would be in the best interests of the children. Courts look into the quality of the home environment and the level of parental guidance each parent can provide for the children. Courts also look into each parent’s ability to provide for the children’s emotional, intellectual, financial and developmental needs. Courts also take into consideration which parent would do a better job promoting the other parent’s relationship with the children. It is the duty of a residential custodial parent to promote the relationship of the children with the other parent.

Unfortunately, judges are trained in the law and not trained to evaluate parenting skills. Some judges rely very heavily on the reports of forensic evaluators, while others take them into consideration but don’t give them as much weight. Deciding who should become the custodial parent is a difficult task. Judges usually pressure the parents to try to resolve the issue on their own. They may suggest a joint custody arrangement to be negotiated out of court. However, if the parents can’t agree, they are entitled to a trial and the judge will determine who should receive residential custody of the children.custody advocate for fathers

About Elliot S. Schlissel

Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has spent more that 30 years representing individuals in matrimonial and family law cases.