Some forensic psychologists function as neutral evaluators in cases where there are disputes in domestic relations over divorce, child custody, as well as visitation rights. They might be appointed by the judges, or the attorneys representing the parties may give their nod to a consent agreement to push the evaluation process forward. Let’s take a look at what role these forensic psychologists have in a child custody case.
What Does a Forensic Psychologist Do?
The court might find evaluations related to child custody informative only when either of the parties fails to arrive at a settlement. Reconciliation of marriage is something that no one would want to think of. Mediation hasn’t been successful. Even litigation might get stalled. A judge has the responsibility of coming up with decisions that will impact the lives of people they don’t know. He will have to fall back upon the experts at that point before passing a final judgment.
A forensic psychologist takes up the case from here. Conducting several interviews with warring spouses is important. The main aim is to figure what kind of individuals they are. Additionally, their personal strength as parents also needs to be recognized. The entire process of getting to know the spouses includes assessing if they are mentally healthy, how they have been bringing up their child, and how willing they are in case of fostering the relationship of their kid with their partner. The psychologist will evaluate every fact they gather.
They Have Some Challenging Tasks At Hand
Interviewing kids is not an easy task since trying to realize their thought processes requires a lot of time. They take time to warm up to someone they don’t know. Questions that can force them to choose between their parents must be avoided and a forensic psychologist knows that. The things that are discussed include their hobbies, interests, friends, school, activities, and relationships with their parents.
It takes patience to spend some time alone with the kids, asking them questions about the small things in their lives. If the child is an infant or toddler, forensic psychologists have to make a visit to their home and observe the kind of interaction they have with their parents.
The Reach Out To A Lot Of People
When acting as a neutral evaluator in a child custody case, forensic psychologists make it a point to reach out to other people who know the family from close quarters and interview them. This might turn out to be quite a lengthy process as the statements of child caretakers, teachers, counselors, sports coaches, clergy, medical professionals, and several other relevant people need to be taken into account. Yes, some statements might be biased in which case, forensic psychologists prefer to interview grandparents, neighbors, relatives, as well as family friends.
The information they receive is quite helpful in the proceedings. Aside from that, informative documents like school records, medical records, driving records, job performance, etc. count a lot. There are instances when a judge might want the parents to go through a psychological assessment. The child is left out of this. This step is taken to measure the psychological stability of each parent where they are interviewed in-depth to get access to vital information that may prove useful in a child custody case.
Their Job Is Risky
Forensic psychologists can hit upon a minefield while working in child custody cases. They may arouse suspicion and face anger as well as false allegations regarding their professional ethics and the way they approach such a sensitive case. Though it’s rare, a parent who faces a defeat in child custody litigations may feel they have been unfairly treated and lodge a complaint against the forensic psychologist with a licensing board.
Some people can’t bear the pain of being divorced and are about to lose custody of their children – such a situation can force them to be at their worst. Some parents feel that their self-image is at stake when they are involved in such disputes. Their egos prevent them from doing the best for their kids. Child custody cases may continue for weeks, months, and even years. The parents become more interested in slinging mud at each other, rather than candidly discussing themselves and their kids.
The main responsibility of a forensic psychologist is to focus on what’s best for a child. After they are done with the evaluation, they will reveal their findings and furnish a report citing their recommendations. Once the attorneys and parents go through the complete report, they may come to a settlement. Otherwise, a forensic psychologist will appear as an expert witness in the court. The final decision lies with the judge.