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Conducting Child Custody Evaluations

Conducting Child Custody Evaluations
From Basic to Complex Issues

September 2010 | 368 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Covering the mental health expert's many roles as therapist, mediator, evaluator, consultant to attorneys, expert witness, and more, Philip M. Stahl's Conducting Child Custody Evaluations: From Basic to Complex Issues addresses key topics such as the best interests of the child, custody and time share, divorce and its impact on children, and children's developmental needs. From tackling the terror of testifying to critiquing your own child custody evaluations and avoiding bias inherent in this work, this practical and easy-to-read book offers comprehensive coverage vital to practitioners in this field.

1. Introduction to the Role, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility
How the Courts Benefit From an Evaluation

How the Family Benefits From an Evaluation

When is the Evaluation Harmful

Who is the Client/Consumer

Practical Standards and Ethical Issues

Evaluator Biases

Reducing the Risk of Bias

2. The Mental Health Expert's Many Possible Roles

Therapeutic Reunification

Collaborative Law Coach

Psychologist Evaluator/Psychiatrist/Vocational Evaluator


Consultant to Attorney/Expert Witness

Parent Coordinator

The Custody Evaluator

Dual Relationships

3. Fundamental Questions in Most Custody Evaluations
The Best Interests of the Child

The Family's Relationships

Parenting Strengths and Weaknesses

The Co-Parental Relationship

Time-Sharing Recommendations

4. General divorce-Related Research and Basic Statutory and Case Law
A Quick Primer on Research

Risks of Divorce to Children

Risk vs. Resiliency

Mitigating Factors

Research on Parent's Relationships After Divorce

Basic Statutory and Case Law

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Troxel Vs. Granville (2000)

Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

California Statutes and Case Law

5. Children's Developmental Needs
A Developmental Framework

6. Conducting the Evaluation Part I: Observations and Techniques With Adults
The Court Order and Initial Contact With Attorneys

The Initial Phone Call and Contacts With Parents

The Initial Contact

The First Conjoint Appointment

The Initial Individual Appointment

The Second Interview and Beyond

What to Believe?

The Use of Psychological Tests

7. Conducting the Evaluation Part II: Observations and Techniques With Children
Significant Issues in the Assessment of Children/Gaining Rapport at the Beginning of the First Interview

Children and the Potential for Suggestibility

Children and Their Language

Gathering Information About the Child's Experiences

Directly Assessing the Parent-Child Bond

Siblings Together, or Not?

Use of Play and Other Techniques in Understanding Children

Home Visits

The Preference of the Child

8. The Use of Psychological Testing in Custody Evaluations
Review of the Literature

Traditional Psychological Tests

Tests Designed Specifically for Custody Evaluations

Parenting Inventories

Tests for Children

Benefits of Using Tests

Risks in Using Tests

Computerized Test Results

A Balanced Approach

9. Gathering of Collateral Data
What is Collateral Data?

Benefits of Using Collateral Data

Record Review

Gathering Lists of Collateral Sources

Who To Talk To - A Concentric Circle Approach

Interviewing Collateral Sources

10. Sharing the Results of the Evaluation - The Evaluation Report
AFCC Model Standards

Basic Characteristics of a Quality Report

Information Which Must be in Every Report

The Parents

The Children

Collateral Information

Analysis and Summary


11. Non-Violent High Conflict Families
Contribution From Personality Features

Contribution From Other Sources

Recommendations for High Conflict Families

A Case for Sole Legal custody of Decision Making

12. Domestic Violence
The Concept of Differentiation

Approaching the Family's Domestic Violence Issues

Parenting Problems of Domestic Violence Parents

Gathering Data

The Alphabet Soup of Using Data to Formulate Conclusions

Using the PPPP Analysis with the RRR Concepts to Reach a Decision About the Parenting Plan

Therapeutic and Structural Interventions

13. The Alienated Child
Contribution to the Child's Alienated Response

Parent Contributions to the Development of Alienation

Child Contributions to the Development of Alienation

Typical Alienated Behaviors in Children

Emotional Impact of Alienation on Children

Dynamics of the Larger System

Evaluation of Alienation

Other Reasons for Alignment With One Parent - What to Look for in the Children

Concluding the Evaluation

14. Relocation Evaluations
Legal Considerations in Relocation Evaluations - Relevant Case Law

Legal Considerations in Relocation Evaluations - Relevant Statutory Law

The Psychological Literature Related to Relocation

Societal Issue That Often Lead to Requests to Move

Factors for the Evaluator to Consider

Special Issues in International Cases

Avoiding Bias

15. Tackling the Terror of Testifying
The Deposition

The Process at Trial

Preparing for the Testimony

Testifying Procedures

Stick to the Data

Dealing With Hypothetical Questions

Remain Professional

Trick Questions

Do's and Don'ts for Testifying in Court

16. Critiquing Evaluations
17. Conclusions
Special Needs for Children

Substance Abuse Issues

Sexual Abuse Allegations

Longitudinal Evaluations


Sample Court Order

Sample Informed Consent and Retainer Agreement

Sample Intake Form

Sample Listing of Questions for Parents

Sample Listing of Questions for Children

Sample Alienation Analysis and Recommendation

Sample Relocaiton Analysis and Recommendation

About the Author
Key features

Key Features

  • Reflects the latest changes in the field, including the most recent ethical and practice information from the AFCC Model Standards and APA Guidelines pertaining to child custody evaluations
  • Walks readers step by step through the process of conducting the evaluation, including how to work with children and parents; when to consider and how to incorporate psychological testing; and how to write up the report, including the importance of providing a thorough analysis explaining the link between the data and your conclusions
  • Provides timely coverage of research on attachment and divorce; overnights with very young children; differentiated domestic violence; nonviolent high-conflict families; psychological and legal issues pertaining to relocation; the alienated child; and other complex issues facing custody evaluators
  • Includes sample sections from custody reports that highlight good practice
  • Offers valuable appendices, including sample forms and informed consent documents, sample questions to ask parents and children, and extensive references useful to child custody evaluators

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