How a Forensic Psychologist can Immediately help your Child Custody / Parenting Time Case

How can a forensic psychologist help my parenting plan dispute?

The following roles are offered by Dr. Kristin Tolbert, a Florida Licensed Psychologist, and the diligently selected clinicians at the Psychological Center for Expert Evaluations, Inc. in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.Psychological Evaluation (initial evaluator)A forensic “Social Investigation”, also referred to as a “Child Custody Evaluation” is an important tool often used by the Court to assist in determining custodial arrangements of the children involved. The Court typically orders an evaluation when litigants cannot agree on a custodial arrangement by themselves, or with the assistance of their lawyers or mediators. The aim of the evaluation is to provide the Court with important information relating to the child’s “Best Interests” from a neutral expert who is qualified to assist the Court by offering clinical opinions on appropriate arrangements for the children involved.Second Opinion EvaluatorConducting a second opinion evaluator involves meeting the parents and children in their home environment, contacting collateral sources, forming an independent opinion about the situation at hand, and often reviewing the first evaluation as a way to help settle any disagreements in conclusions and opinions between the two evaluations. As a second evaluator, forensic psychologists may agree or disagree with the initial evaluators final opinion, either way they will carefully document and provide their opinions and findings to the Court, for the Judge’s consideration.Trial/Case ConsultantBeing a psychological consultant for family law attorney can involve many blended roles, such as assisting the attorney in preparing deposition or hearing cross-examination questions, helping the client prepare for the custody evaluation, creating developmentally appropriate parenting plans, testifying regarding new research or best practices, etc.Here are some of the roles an experienced forensic psychologist can take on in child custody cases:

Reviewer/Work Product Review

Forensic psychologists are retainable as a “Reviewer” by attorneys for the purpose of reviewing another mental health professionals’ psychological reports, evaluation procedures, and raw data obtained in case file. When they conduct work product reviews the attorney is able to utilize a second view point on the work of the previous expert in addition to bring into light the psycho-legal issues regarding each case, as well as flaws, biases, contradictions, or deficient practices in the initial work product.Rebuttal Witness/Expert Witness Testimony Upon completion of the review of reports from the previous mental health professional, they will give the retaining attorney confidential, knowledgeable and straightforward feedback about whether or not the original work is sound in its opinions, methodology, and opinions. If the outcome of the work product review is in the retaining attorney’s client’s favor, the forensic psychologist is typically asked to testify in court to educate the judge on the deficiencies or poor quality of the initial evaluation. If the issues are substantial, the judge may rule to have a second opinion evaluation take place.

Testifying Regarding Psychological Research& Educating the Court

There are situations that call for testimony in court as it relates to the case and providing general advice, guidance, and information to the judge. As a mental health consultant, forensic psychologists can provide litigants and other professionals generic education about topics such as best practices in child custody evaluation processes and procedures, developmental needs of children, explanations of 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 and available interventions.

Trial Preparation & Cross-Examination Question Development

Forensic Psychologists regularly provide consultation with the attorney about the initial child custody report results, including a review of the quality of the forensic mental health evaluation, and aiding the counsel in preparing for cross examination of the initial evaluator. During this time, the retaining attorney’s client can also be prepped for depositions and/or hearings and given information on literature to enhance their co parenting skills.

Non-Testifying Experts

Another common practice is for attorneys to forensic psychologists as a non-testifying expert to provide consultation on matters of trail preparation. For example, they are able to assist in preparing for cross-examination questions. In civil litigation, it is not uncommon for the rebuttal witness to act as a consultant for the attorneys and remain behind the scenes to guide and consult with the counsel. This information remains part of the attorney client work product and does not ever have to be disclosed. This role allows the psychologist the most flexibility to prepare and assist the client.

Litigant Support and Client Management

Due to the emotionally charged nature of family law issues, there are often times that attorneys request assistance from our forensic psychologists in helping their client by providing one-to-one guidance, coping skills, divorced communication skills, and appropriate co-parenting education techniques. Because the psychologist makes it clear that they are not acting as the client’s therapist, our psychological consultants not only assist with “client management” through various coping, calming, and educational techniques, we also remain in close communication with the attorney to help facilitate mutual goals. Probably one of the most important aspects of this service is that the entire process can remain confidential, under the attorney’s work product privilege.Please call us today at (561) 429-2140 to see how our forensic psychological consultants can strengthen your case.

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