The pain of divorce is often compounded by a difficult custody battle, and it’s sometimes necessary for forensic psychologists to perform careful evaluations of both parents and children to determine the safest and healthiest living and visiting arrangements. If you’re not familiar with the process, it can seem intimidating, but when you know what to expect, you can prepare. With a little knowledge and a calm approach, you may even be able to help ensure that a forensic psychology evaluation works in your child’s favor.
The Purpose of a Custody Evaluation
Custody evaluations are needed when a couple cannot agree on the legal or residential custody of their child. They’re also conducted when there’s suspicion of physical or mental abuse, mental health problems or substance abuse. An evaluation may be ordered by a judge or requested by another party. The procedure’s primary purpose is to help the court determine which outcome is in the child’s best interest. Relevant factors include parenting abilities, suitability of living environments, emotional connections and conflicts and your child’s behavioral reactions to the divorce. The preferences and wishes of an older, emotionally mature child are also considered.
What Happens During the Evaluation?
The evaluation process generally involves several meetings with you, the other parent, your child, and a psychiatrist or psychologist. Third parties such as your child’s pediatrician, counselor or childcare provider may also become involved. The evaluator will perform a series of tests and interviews to assess both obvious issues and subtle factors that could potentially affect your child’s well-being. These include evidence of serious psychological problems in either parent, signs of child abuse, unresolved conflicts and destructive behaviors. The evaluation also determines who is emotionally and psychologically closest to your child. You and your co-parent will be interviewed individually and with your child. Your child may also receive a private interview in which the psychologist will ask simple, non-threatening questions about home, school or family life. Your child may also be asked to draw pictures or demonstrate activities using toys. When you’re interviewed with your child, the evaluator will observe how you interact during conversations and everyday activities like playing and reading.
Make Friends with Forensic Psychology
Observing the following tips can help ensure a smooth evaluation process, and help you make a good impression.
- Heed your lawyer’s advice, and follow his or her directions.
- Always be honest. Mental health professionals are trained to spot lies. Never instruct your child to lie.
- Keep your appointments, and don’t be late.
- If an official or evaluator of any kind is coming to your home, be sure it’s clean and orderly.
- Try to remain reasonably calm and objective when talking about the other parent. Don’t confuse marital problems with parenting issues.
- Cooperate with your evaluator. Be sure to follow up on all instructions and suggestions you receive.
Comprehensive Consultation Services, P.C. Cares About Your Family
At Comprehensive Consultation Services, we understand how important getting an accurate custody evaluation is to the future mental health and well-being of your family. We offer careful and thorough psychological assessments to help determine the best possible outcomes for children facing their parents’ divorce or legal separation. Contact us for more details about our forensic services.