As top rated BC child custody, guardianship and access lawyers we attend frequent seminars on what makes a good and credible section 15 custody and access reports by psychologists and how to tell the difference between a helpful versus an unhelpful and deficient section 15 custody and access report.
Call us to discuss whether you should seek or oppose a section 15 custody and access report by agreement or court order by contacting us at any of our 4 offices across BC. Our offices are located in downtown Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna or Fort St John/Dawson Creek or call us toll free at 1-877-602-9900.
Joy M. Feinberg and Jonathan W. Gould, PhD, ABPP pointed out in their AFCC Chicago 49th annual Child Custody Conference seminar that:
The forensic model applied to child custody evaluations was articulated by Martindale and Gould (2004). As applied to child custody evaluations, the essential components of the forensic model are as follows:
1. The evaluator’s role, the purpose of the evaluation, and the focus of the evaluation are defined by the court.
2. Where possible, the evaluator obtains (at the outset) a list of specific psycholegal issues concerning which the court seeks advisory input.
3. The evaluator conducts all professional activities in accordance with regulations and/or guidelines promulgated by state/provincial regulatory boards.
4. The procedures employed by the evaluator are informed by the psychologists’ Ethics Code (APA, 2002), the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists (Committee on Ethical Guidelines, 1991), APA’s Custody Evaluation Guidelines (APA, 1994), and similar documents developed by Canadian organizations that conceptualize the child custody evaluation as an inherently forensic psychological activity.
5. The selection of assessment instruments is guided by the 1985 and 1999 editions of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, & NCME, 1985, 1999) and particular attention is given to the established reliability and validity of instruments under consideration (Heilbrun, 1992, 1995; Otto, Edens, & Barcus, 2000).
6. Detailed records of all aspects of the evaluation are created and preserved and are made available in a timely manner to those with the legal authority to inspect or possess them.
7. All professional activities are performed with a recognition of the investigative nature of the task:
a. An acknowledgment of the limitations inherent in our evaluative procedures
b. An understanding of the distinction between psychological issues and the specific psycholegal questions before the court
c. An appreciation of the need not to engage in therapeutic endeavors before, during, or after the evaluation
The Forensic Model, as applied to child custody evaluations, served as a foundation for AFCC’s Model Standards. The Forensic Model is premised in part on the integration of legal and scientific principles in crafting a child custody evaluation. In their summary of changes in the child custody arena over the past 50 years, Elrod and Dale (2008) argued that the work product of child custody evaluators needs to meet the requirements of expert testimony: “Many argue that if society and courts wish to use mental health evaluators as experts and to make child custody cases into truly interdisciplinary endeavors, then law and science should demand rigorous scrutiny so that courts are informed consumers of expert evidence” (Elrod & Dale, 2008, p. 417).
Today, there is a consensus in the mainstream forensic literature about which methods and procedures should be included in a competently conducted examination (Ackerman & Kane, 2010; Bow & Quinnell; 2002; Gould, 2006; Heilbrun, 2001; Kirkland, 2002; Otto et al., 2003; Rohrbaugh, 2008; Stahl, 2010):
8. Formulating questions that guide the evaluation (Amundson et al., 2000; Austin, 2000; Gould, 1999; Gould & Bell, 2000; Gould & Martindale, 2008; Gould & Stahl, 2000)
9. Collecting forensic interview data using a semistructured interview format (Bow & Quinnell, 2002; Gould, 2006)
10. Obtaining self-report data (Ackerman & Kane, 2010; Gould, 2006)
11. Administering and interpreting psychological tests and self-report measures that have appropriate foundation and relevance to the psycholegal questions posed (Flens & Drozd, 2005; Gould, Martindale, & Flens, 2009; Otto, Edens, & Barcus, 2000)
10. Obtaining relevant collateral interview data and reviewing relevant records (Austin, 2002; Kirkland, 2002; Kirkland, McMillan, & Kirkland, 2005)
There has also been increased awareness on the part of evaluators that their work product must meet legal standards for admissibility of scientific evidence (Elrod & Dale, 2008; Gould, 2004, 2006; Gould & Martindale, 2007).
If you are involved in a child custody and guardianship and access case you need to understand how a custody and access report works and to be briefed well in advance about what the role of the psychologist is in these cases and how you can best portray yourself and the issues in a truthful, authentic and accurate matter free from anxiety.
Call us to discuss whether you should seek or oppose a section 15 custody and access report agreement or court order by contacting us at any of our 4 offices across BC in downtown Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna or Fort St John/Dawson Creek or call us toll free at 1-877-602-9900.