"While the findings that the court may come across in their interviews and observations very well might be positive, a child custody evaluation should never be susceptible to “pulling for” any one side. It should be a fair assessment that looks objectively at the positives and negatives of both situations with a decision reached based on the best interests of the child."
When a child’s custody is uncertain, both parents are looking to present themselves in the best light. They are saying all of the right things about themselves and attempting to convey the notion that they are more capable to be the custodial parent than the other.
Their personalities are under a microscope, and courts look to examine the validity of any of the claims that may be made that boost a parent’s character. They examine how well each parent would be able to provide a stable and thriving home for their child and how they have previously behaved as a parent.
One of the more crucial elements to the family dynamic that is examined is personality. In many cases, custody cases surface because marriages end, so bigger questions regarding the personalities of the individuals involved emerge. Was it the fault of a specific individual that the marriage ended? Was there neglect? Was there abuse? How were the mental states of the individuals in the marriage? How did their personalities come together? What ended things?
Personality Assessment Inventory
One tool that courts may use in evaluating adults in custody cases is the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI). This instrument assesses a broad range of clinical variables and interpersonal functioning in clinical and forensic settings. The PAI has been identified as the second most frequently utilized broadband instrument in the evaluation of adults by forensic psychologists and the third most frequently utilized self-reported measure in the assessment of parents undergoing child custody evaluations.
It was recently featured in a study that examined contextual and psychometric considerations in child custody evaluations, and the study was published in the Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry. The context of child custody evaluations through the scope of the PAI tends to create an atmosphere that is more inclined to look at a situation more positively.
The study found that many offer the best versions of themselves during interviews and psychological testing. On average, almost all of the PAI clinical scales are at average levels or suppressed in the child custody evaluation context with several scales, such as the positive, personal, and interpersonal functioning, seen as elevated.
The study had a particular focus on the significance of the elevated levels of grandiosity and obsessive-compulsive tendencies in the PAI. The study found that within the context of a child custody evaluation, these tendencies pulled positively, creating the image of an ideal environment for a child to thrive in.
One of the major faults of how the PAI viewed these levels is that they did not go deeper than the surface level. The study observed that the trait of obsessive-compulsive did not specify whether that entails the orderly, neat, and detail-oriented version of obsessive-compulsive or if it is the compulsive and phobic-esque version.
The difference between the two is important because many people who exhibit obsessive-compulsive tendencies can be a danger to themselves and to others, and putting a child in that type of environment could be damaging or dangerous to their well-being and development.
An honest depiction of the parent and their living environment is what the courts are looking for when they are determining custody. While shared parenting has been shown in studies to create a better developmental situation for children, many families still shown hesitance toward the concept, given the fact that in cases of abuse, neglect or criminal behavior, shared parenting is not applicable.
Many parents still look for primary or sole custody in child custody cases, and when those are fought, the courts need to be able to make their decision based on honest findings and evaluations.
While the findings that the court may come across in their interviews and observations very well might be positive, a child custody evaluation should never be susceptible to “pulling for” any one side. It should be a fair assessment that looks objectively at the positives and negatives of both situations with a decision reached based on the best interests of the child.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.