Child Custody Evaluations Tool Under Fire
Divorces can be messy – potentially even more so when children are involved. Emotions run high and often cause rational thinking and behavior to be thrown out the window. Because of this, the court system has different “tools” to help it determine what is in the best interest of the children when custody is at stake.
One such tool is a child custody evaluation. These evaluations are typically conducted by a mental health provider who give the court a recommendation regarding where the children should live, parenting time, and basically an overall picture of the family dynamic as it relates to the custody case.
In theory, these evaluations should help both the parties involved and the court. However, a recent study seems to show otherwise.
In an article published in Court Review, Dr. Ira Daniel Turkat, a licensed psychologist and family law litigation specialist, conducted what he claims to be the first known quantitative study on the detrimental effects of child custody evaluations.
In his study, Turkat surveyed 101 people from 35 states who: 1- were divorced, 2- had participated in a custody evaluation by a psychologist, 3- gave details about the evaluation, 4- paid for the evaluation with family funds and 5- were not related to any other participant in the study. His results showed that 1 in 4 kids experienced negative effects from the evaluation and 1 in 5 were reported to be harmed or had their lives made worse by the evaluation recommendation.
Recent Custody Evaluation Study On Child Custody Evaluations Reveal Crippling Results, While Others Say Evaluations An Important Tool In Divorce Cases
Turkat stated that 65% of the parents interviewed stated that their kids would have been better off if the money spent on the evaluation would been used elsewhere, and that 2/3 said that overall, the custody evaluation was not in the best interest of their children.
In the article, Turkat states that these results support his claim that there is no scientific evidence to prove that child custody evaluations result in beneficial outcomes for the children. He argues that the cost of these evaluations is often crippling for families, and because of diagnostic errors in the mental health profession, courts should be more cautious when faced with motions to conduct them. In fact, he goes as far as to recommend that perhaps courts should stop ordering them altogether until the American Psychological Association and local agencies can produce scientific evidence on how to perform the evaluations in such a way as to achieve better outcomes for the children involved.
As with everything in the legal world, there are two sides to every story. In the same volume of Court Review that Dr. Turkat’s initial article appeared, Drs. Jonathan W. Gould and Allan Posthuma wrote their own article essentially attacking Turkat’s findings and “outrageous allegations.”
Doctors Dispute Custody Evaluation Study, Says Child Custody Evaluations Actually Save Money
Contrary to Turkat’s stance, Gould and Posthuma argue that 90% of the time custody evaluations are used as settlement tools and therefore actually save money in the long-run as the parties do not have to bear the costs associated with trial. They argue that Turkat’s study would not be accepted by most peer-reviewed journals and ultimately, they believe that a competently conducted custody evaluation is an important tool in divorce cases. To read both articles, including Turkats’ response to Gould and Posthuma see Court Review.
No matter what your stance is on child custody evaluations, it is important that you consult with an experienced family law attorney so you don’t have to face the situation alone. If you need a divorce consultation in the Dayton, Ohio area, please call us today!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.