The child custody evaluation process should involve a rather systematic method of gathering information, formulating a hypothesis, and rendering opinions pertaining to the best interests of the children involved. Unfortunately, not all psychologists or mental health professionals are properly trained or even qualified to conduct these evaluations, yet they continue to perform them and have the potential to cause more damage than good.
If you believe that the results of your family’s social investigation were unfair, biased, or poorly executed, you may want to consider hiring a second forensic psychologist to complete a “work product review“. The role of this second “rebuttal” psychologist is to take a fine tooth comb to the initial psychologist’s report and “raw data” obtained in his or her file. The rebuttal witness’s goal is to highlight any deficits to the Judge and assist your attorney with strong ammunition for cross-examination at the hearing.
The following guidelines are a small sample of things that a rebuttal psychological looks for to ensure a fair evaluation and report:
• Qualification. Is the child custody evaluator qualified to be conducting the social investigation? Are they licensed in the discipline in which they are practicing? Are they trained in child welfare and development? A child custody evaluator must hold at least a masters in a mental health field as well as the highest license level in their state possible. Does the child custody evaluator have specialized knowledge and training in topics related to child custody work and keep up to date on research, child welfare, laws, and policies related to child custody evaluations? Child custody evaluators who have fewer than two years experience are encouraged to seek ongoing supervision prior to offering to perform or accepting to conduct an evaluation.
• Accuracy. Did the child custody evaluator strive to be accurate, objective, fair, and independent in their work? Did they utilize peer-reviews published research in their reports for reliability purposes?
• Assessment Instrument. Did the child custody evaluator use an assessment instrument and were they able to support the reason behind using the assessment? Is the instrument reliable and valid?
• Valid Collateral. Did the child custody evaluator provide valid collateral source information? Providing sufficient and reliable collateral source information is critical to a thorough evaluation.
• Reliability of Opinions. Were the opinions expressed by child custody evaluators based on information and data obtained through the application of reliable principals, and methods? The child custody evaluator must differentiate between information gathered, observations made, data collected, inferences made, and opinions formulated. Was empirically-based research utilized in reviewing their information and data?
• Disclosure. It is the child custody evaluator’s responsibility to disclose all collateral sources contacted. Evaluators must list all collateral informants who were contacted and all data sources that were utilized, whether or not the information obtained was utilized by the evaluators in formulating their opinions.
• Unbalanced Opinions. One of the major issues in child custody evaluations is wording that would cause one parent to seem unfavorable with no supportive evidence or data. Due to poor wording, a parent who potentially be seen as an un-fit parent. Is the child custody evaluator biased towards one or both parents? Is there a conflict of interest involved for the evaluator?
If you believe that the results of your family’s child custody evaluation were negatively effected by an unqualified or biased evaluator, please have your attorney call Dr. Kristin Tolbert, Licensed Psychologist and founder of the Psychological Center for Expert Evaluations, Inc., for a complimentary consultation to discuss your options. Our clinicians receive the most up-to-date training on ethically performed parental timesharing evaluations and we are meticulous when searching for factors that could have an unfair impact on your case. Our office is located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and we are easily reached throughout Palm Beach County.