As a consultant in family law cases, Dr. Tolbert is able to help organize psychological data and use it to benefit your position in court or settlement negotiations.
Services our agency provides:
- Social Investigations
- Parenting Plans
- Relocation Evaluations – Interstate Divorces
- Court ordered Counseling & Psychological Assessments
Attorney/Client Support and Education In some situations, attorneys may have clients that could benefit from one-on-one guidance from a psychological expert to prepare them for trial or to assist with settlement agreements. Especially in high conflict divorces, it can be particularly helpful to hire a mental health consultant early on in the case, to walk the litigant through the custody evaluation process. As a mental health consultant in this capacity, Dr. Tolbert often provides the client with psycho-education, teaches effective communication techniques, provides information on divorced parenting skills, and provides them with anxiety reducing techniques to utilize throughout the process. Dr. Tolbert can also assist by utilizing the most up to date, generally accepted literature, to help create parenting plans that are developmentally appropriate and structured with the child’s psychological best interest in mind. When attorneys are faced with difficult clients who refuse to consider sound advice, Dr. Tolbert is generally able to help present information in a way that the client may be more receptive to hearing. Additionally, unless asked to testify, this assistance does not have to be disclosed and will remain under the client/attorney privilege.
Work Product Reviews & Rebuttal Witness Testimony Dr. Tolbert is also able to assist in cases where the attorney’s client receives an unfavorable outcome on a psychological evaluation or social investigation. Dr. Tolbert will first assess the content of the report and provide an initial opinion as to whether or not the methodology appears sound. In cases where the results of the evaluation appear appropriate, and there does not seem to be any serious deficiencies or problems with the evaluators approach, Dr. Tolbert can help the attorney explain the results of the report to their client and potentially help to explore the benefits of reaching a settlement agreement with the opposing side. In these cases, Dr. Tolbert’s assistance does not have to be disclosed and all consultation can remain under the attorney/client privilege. If, however, there does appear to be substantial deficiencies, bias language, lack of experience, insufficient credentials, or any other problem with the methodology or outcome of the report, Dr. Tolbert will explain these issues and advise that the attorney further challenge the conclusions of the psychological assessment by subpoenaing the initial evaluator’s entire file for a thorough work product review. If after receiving the case file, it becomes apparent that the initial evaluator did in fact make significant identifiable errors, Dr. Tolbert will likely become an identified testifying expert with the goal of assisting the Court in understanding or determining the quality and accuracy of the initial report. When completing a peer review/work product review, Dr. Tolbert objectively looks at case files to search for answers to important questions that may need to be highlighted for the judge’s consideration. For example, some of the questions which Dr. Tolbert strives to answer include:
- – Were generally accepted methods of evaluation utilized?
- – Was there an adherence to the standards of practice and ethical guidelines of the profession?
- – Were there substantial biases towards one examinee?
- – Was there any level of incompetence on the behalf of the initial evaluator?
- – Were enough, or appropriate collateral contacts interviewed?
- – Were alternative hypotheses considered?
Psychological Evaluation (initial evaluator) A forensic mental health evaluation is an important key in the court’s determination of the best interests of a child in a custody dispute. The court typically orders an evaluation when litigants cannot agree on a custodial arrangement either by themselves or with the assistance of their lawyers or a mediator. The aim of the evaluation is to provide the court with important information relating to the child’s best interests from a neutral expert source that will assist the court in making its custody determination.
Second Opinion Evaluator Conducting a second opinion evaluator involves meeting the parties and children in their home environment, contacting collaterals and forming an independent opinion about the situation at hand, though we may choose to review the quality of the work first evaluation as a way to help settle any disagreements in conclusions and opinions between the two evaluations. As an second evaluator, we may agree or disagree with the initial evaluators final opinion, either way we will ethically provide my opinions and findings.
Trial/Case Consultant Being a consultant for an attorney involves many blended roles such as assisting the attorney in preparing for cross-examination, testifying to provide general knowledge or advice, as well as staying privileged in a case to provide consultation for the attorney alone.
Testifying General Information & Education There are situations that call for my testimony in court as it relates to the case and providing general advice, guidance, and information to the judge. As a mental health consultant, we can provide litigants and other professionals generic education about topics like child custody evaluation process and procedures, developmental needs of children, explains children’s responses to divorces, attachment issues influencing parenting plans and access decisions, and provide family members with a comprehensive list of resources such as services, interventions.
Cross-Examination Preparation Consultation with the attorney about the forensic mental health evaluation, including review of the quality of the forensic mental health evaluation, and aiding the counsel in preparing for cross examination of the evaluator, which is typically called case analysis and evaluation by lawyers and litigation support, assessment and peer review by mental health consultants.
Review of mental health treatment records of the defendant and other review services. We offer a critical review of mental health records in order to uncover subtle information that often goes unnoticed by the untrained eye. After this review, we will then assist in developing a strategy to best utilize the information contained in the records.Our psychologists are also available to review the reliability of the collateral source from which information was obtained and review effectiveness with which findings.
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