GALs and Custody Evaluators

  • News Article

    Court Appointed Parenting Evaluators and Guardians Ad Litem: Practical Realities and an Argument for Abolition

    Law Offices of Margaret K. Dore

    This article describes the practical realities of residential placement and scheduling (i.e., child custody and visitation) recommendations by court-appointed parenting evaluators and guardians ad litem. This article also questions whether given these realities, the practice of using such recommendations should be continued. At the very least, these realities suggest the need for reform.   More

  • News Article

    A Critical Assessment of Child Custody Evaluations: Limited Science and a Flawed System

    Association For Psychological Science In the Public Interest

    Psychologists and other mental health professionals increasingly have become involved in evaluating children and families in custody disputes, because of the large number of separated, divorced, and never-married parents and the substantial conflict that often accompanies the breakup of a family. Theoretically, the law guides and controls child custody evaluations, but the prevailing custody standard (the "best interests of the child" test) is a vague rule that directs judges to make decisions unique to individual cases according to what will be in children's future (and undefined) best interests. Furthermore, state statutes typically offer only vague guidelines as to how judges (and evaluators) are to assess parents and the merits of their cases, and how they should ultimately decide what custody arrangements will be in a child's best interests.  More

  • News Article

    Guardians Ad Litem In Private Custody Litigation: the Case For Abolition

    Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law, May 1, 2002

    This article examines the purported historical justification for the use of Guardians Ad Litem (GALs), the plethora of criticism nationwide concerning their involvement, their poorly defined role, their particular failures in cases of child abuse and domestic violence, their unaccountability, their unjustified cost, and alternatives to their use.  More

  • News Article

    Use of the MMPI-2 In Child Custody Evaluations Involving Battered Women: What Does Psychological Research Tell Us?.

    American Bar Assoc Family Law Quarterly

    When a custody evaluation is conducted by a psychologist, the revised version of the Minnesota Multiphasic Per-sonality Inventory (MMPI-2) is often used as part of the evaluation process. The MMPI-2, like other traditional psy-chological tests, was not designed for use in custody evaluations and arguably should not be used for such purpose except "when specific problems or issues that these tests were designed to measure appear salient in the case." Abusers typically disavow any wrongdoing and claim the mother is "crazy" or unfit in some other way. The MMPI-2 cannot disprove a batterer's claim of innocence, because there is no known MMPI-2 abuser "profile." In fact, many MMPI-2 profiles of batterers do not reveal any psychopathology. Battered women, however, based on the results of the MMPI-2, may appear to be suffering from various psychopathologies, including but not limited to borderline personality disorder, paranoia, histrionic personality disorder, or even schizophrenia. The custody evaluator may conclude that the mother's apparent psychopathology is a personality disorder and therefore characterological (a "trait"). An "alternative conceptualization" is that the woman's psychological presentation is a reaction to the abuse she has suffered (a reactive "state"). This article surveys the available research on battered women's MMPI/MMPI-2 profiles. That research tends to support the hypothesis that a battered woman's MMPI-2 profile often is a result of the abuse she has suffered (a reactive "state") and therefore should not be viewed by child custody evaluators as evidence that she has personality traits indi-cating that she would not be a fit parent.  More

  • News Article

    The Role of Psychological Testing

    Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations In Cases With Dome, June 1, 2006

    In the rare case in which it is a relevant and necessary aspect of an evaluation, you may decide, or the expert may determine, that psychological testing would provide a helpful supplement to the information obtained through interviews and examination of the written record. This is an area to approach with caution.[38] If psychological tests are used, the test(s) should be administered and interpreted by a psychologist who has expertise in the use of psychological testing in the context of contested child custody cases with allegations or evidence of domestic violence. Generally, however, psychological testing is not appropriate in domestic violence situations. Such testing may misdiagnose the non-abusive parent’s normal response to the abuse or violence as demonstrating mental illness,[39] effectively shifting the focus away from the assaultive and coercive behaviors of the abusive parent.   More

  • News Article

    For Arbiters In Custody Battles, Wide Power and Little Scrutiny

    The New York Times, May 23, 2004

    When warring parents head to court to fight over child custody in New York, their lawyers often let them in on a little secret: The most powerful person in the process is not the judge. It is not the other parent, not one of the lawyers, not even a child. No, the most important person in determining who gets custody, and on what terms, is frequently a court-appointed forensic evaluator. Forensics, as they are often called, can be psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers; they interview the families and usually make detailed recommendations to judges, right down to who gets the children on Wednesdays and alternate weekends. And the judges usually go along.   More

  • News Article

    Families' futures decided with little oversight

    August 7, 2007

    In the field of family law, a little-examined group of professionals has enough influence to separate fathers from children and relegate mothers to weekends-only status, based on little more than an opinion. So-called parent evaluators need no particular credentials or training. They may use any method they wish, charge what they please and remain virtually free of oversight. Yet their word can upend families in a single stroke.  More

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