When child custody hearings turn ugly, the judge resorts to unusual measures. One of those measures is a request for both parents to see a forensic psychologist for a complete psychological evaluation. If the children involved are likely to have their own developmental or emotional problems, then the judge may order a psych eval for the children as well. Here is the role of the forensic psychologist in regards to a child custody hearing.
Mom and Dad Put Through a Barrage of Psych Tests
The judge appoints a forensic psychologist to the family. Mom and Dad will each meet with the psychologist on their own schedules. The appointments are about two hours long, and the psychologist will put each parent through the same battery of psychological tests. The purpose is to uncover intelligence, capacity to care for and manage young children, and any tendencies toward emotional or psychological health problems.
The psychologist will then do a full write-up evaluation on each parent, and present the write-ups to the social workers, lawyers, and the judge involved in the case. A copy of the individual's psych eval will be given to the appropriate owner (i.e., Mom's report copy to Mom, Dad's report copy to Dad). Based on these evaluations, new information may come to light reflecting which parent is more stable, and thus, more fit for child custody placement and decision making. If both parents appear to be of equal intelligence and capacity, and neither of them has any psychological red flags, then the judge has a much harder time making a decision about which parent is more fit.
Evaluating the Children
If a minor has been diagnosed with a developmental or psychological disorder (e.g., autism or anxiety), the judge may order an evaluation of the child as well. A report is created to reflect the child's needs for mental health care and additional supports as seen through the lens of a forensic psychologist. Sometimes these evaluations are conducted without the parents knowing that they have been conducted, usually at the child's school where the child can be observed with his/her peers. If a judge orders the evaluation, parents do not have a say in it, and they cannot refuse the order either.
If any unpleasant information is uncovered in the course of the evaluation, such as abuse or incest, then the psychologist includes this in the report. Possible ramifications for placing the child with the parent who is abusive is highly discouraged. It is up to the judge to take all of this information in and make a decision that is right by the child(ren). If you have questions or are interested in this, reach out to a company such as fpamed.