When going through a divorce, if it has become abundantly clear that you and your ex are not able to come to an agreement regarding post-divorce parenting plans, families can ask the Court to order a child custody evaluation, also referred to as a social investigation, to occur, in order to help the Judge make an informed final decision. Because these evaluations can literally change the outcome of a case, careful consideration must be made prior to agreeing to a forensic psychologist. Once the order has been signed by the judge, the evaluator cannot be replaced and you are stuck with them, despite concerns that may arise as the investigation is taking place.
At our Palm Beach Gardens forensic psychology practice, we believe that the families, attorneys, and Judges involved in child custody disputes have the right to receive Social Investigations performed by psychologists who have a strong commitment to the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics, who are research informed, and who strictly abide by standards of practice that are accepted by our peers.
Unfortunately, you cannot assume that all evaluators are created equal and it is essential that you and your attorneys do your homework before blindly accepting a referral to just any child custody evaluator.
In order to help make your decision a little easier, take a look at the following information when considering who to accept as your family’s custody evaluator:
Education, Licensing, and Continuing Education
Child Custody Evaluators in Palm Beach County, Florida are generally expected to be licensed psychologists in clinical psychology, with forensic experience in family law matters. It is important to ask or research if the potential provider has a record of grievances or licensing complaints formally filed against them. A grievance or complaint can be filed with a psychologist is found guilty of malpractice, unethical behavior, or another act of unprofessional behavior.
Usually a forensic psychologist who attends national seminars and conferences will stay up to date on the most recent research based protocols. Ask the psychologist for a copy of their Curriculum Vitae (CV) to determine if they family law focused conferences such as those hosted by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). AFCC is a interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. AFCC has also developed many of the official protocols and guidelines that should be followed while completing social investigations throughout the United States.
Transparency and Ethics
A psychologist who has experience in conducting child custody evaluations should be able to clearly explain every step of the evaluation process. Child custody evaluations are a very tedious and involved process; therefore, it is very important to choose an evaluator who is willing to keep all members of the case up to date with where you are at in the process, as well as what to expect next.
Lastly, if the psychologist chosen has elected to use psychological testing, they should be aware of the limits to these assessments and clearly relay this information in the body of the report. They should only use reliable and valid psychological assessments, and if one parent needs to be tested, it is generally a good idea for both parties to complete the same assessments. The tests used can vary from psychologist to psychologist, but bottom line is that any test used should be able to hold up in court if questioned by an attorney or the judge.
Although this is a very limited sample of information that must be considered, it is a good starting point to begin your search.
If you elect to use any of the forensic evaluators at the Psychological Center for Expert Evaluations, Inc., you can feel confident that we will always strive for excellence and we are fully committed to following the code of ethics which guide our profession.
Call us today if you are ready to learn more about our services and how we can help put the facts on the table, for the benefit of the children.