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Conducting Child Custody Evaluations
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Conducting Child Custody Evaluations
From Basic to Complex Issues



August 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.
 
Preface
 
PART I: CRITICAL PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES
 
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
Therapists  
Therapeutic Reunification  
Collaborative Law Coach  
Psychologist Evaluator/Psychiatrist/Vocational Evaluator  
Mediator  
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  
 
PART II: CONDUCTING THE CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION
 
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  
Recommendations  
 
PART III: COMPLEX ISSUES TO BE EVALUATED
 
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  
Conclusions  
 
Appendices
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  
 
References
 
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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