Navigating a Psychologist’s Child Custody Evaluations Guidelines

  • Courts will schedule meetings where parents and children meet with psychologists, who help in custody decisions.
  • Psychologists have a specific set of guidelines they are to follow, in order to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
  • As parents, understanding these guidelines will allow you to present yourselves in the best way possible during your scheduled meeting with a psychologist.

When identifying what you want out of the divorce, the priority of parents begins and ends with their children and anything related to the custody of them. They want to be able to spend time with them, parent them, and in many cases, have primary custody of them.

In determining child custody, decisions are meant to be made with the best interests of the child in mind, and in order to determine what is in the best interests of the child, courts will schedule meetings where parents and children see psychologists, who help determine, in their professional opinion, what is in the best interests of the child.

As a parent, understanding the guidelines that psychologists have to follow when making determinations of child custody can help your case and help your parenting style moving forward.

Understanding the guidelines

Psychologists are given specific guidelines for child custody evaluations in divorce proceedings, developed by the American Psychological Association. These guidelines were originally published in 1994 by the University of California, Davis, but have been updated since then.

Whether it is outlining different forms of custody or identifying the resources at the disposal of co-parents in the middle of their divorce, these guidelines outline the rational and application for the courses of action that one has to consider when evaluating child custody.

One of the several objectives involved in identifying the best interests of the child is to weigh and incorporate psychological factors such as cultural and environmental variables, family dynamics and interactions, and the child’s psychological, educational, and physical needs.

In order to help their case, parents and third parties will likely advance their concerns in a forceful and contentious manner. With whatever issue these parties bring up, it helps the psychologist identify the boundaries and priorities that are being stated on the outset of the evaluation.

Keeping those thoughts out of the evaluation is important because part of their job is keeping a scientifically sound approach and highlighting legally relevant issues that are central to a court’s ultimate decision-making obligation.

Education, impartiality and consent

This requires psychologists to stay up-to-date with their education, in order to gain and maintain this specialized competence. Even though they strive to maintain their skills, experience, and education, it does not make them any less dedicated to the custody cases that they are presented with. They still will take the time to make their professional judgement based on all of the pertinent information, as well as the applicable legal and regulatory standards of the child custody process.

This means that they need to stay impartial at all times. As much as a vigilant and protective parent may want to get to know the psychologist, out of a concern for their child’s well-being, the psychologist cannot and will not compromise themselves or their integrity as a professional for the sake of parental easement or any other reason.

That being said, there is a good amount of consent needed from the parents and child involved in the evaluation process. According to guidelines, appropriately informed consent honors the legal rights and personal dignity of the examinees and other individuals. Allowing someone to examine a parent or a child’s psychological makeup can be an intimidating aspect of the process, but it is a necessary one to agree to, in order to determine the scope of the situation and gather as much data as possible. This helps the psychologist make a more complete and informed decision, regarding child custody.

Interpretation and parental warning

A psychologist is guided to interpret the assessment in a manner consistent with the context of the evaluation. This keeps the psychologist on topic with the issues that directly impact a parent’s ability to provide a nurturing and stable environment for a child’s growth.

A psychologist also maintains records of the meetings with the child and parents, due to the legal and ethical obligation. This allows other professionals involved in the decision to interpret and understand the data gathered by the psychologist, without their presence.

A psychologist’s process in determining custody through their evaluation of parents and the child in question is not meant to cause additional stress in the lives of all involved. It is meant to determine what is in the best interest of the child, and with these guidelines being a living and breathing set of regulations by the American Psychological Association, children and parents can trust that if something in the guidelines does not work the way it is intended to, it can be revised.

Custody battles can bring out some ugly characteristics in people, and while parents only wish for the best possible situation for their child and cannot be blamed for wanting to spend as much time with them as possible, it is not in their best interests to reflect the bad qualities that may surface during the process. Rebelling against the psychologist’s process will only reflect badly on the individual parent who does so and can lead to reduced visitation and parenting time.

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