How psychologists can help to resolve child custody disputes

Making a decision in child custody cases can be difficult for family law judges in New York and around the country as they do not know the people involved. The situation is made even thornier when divorcing parents make allegations of neglect or abuse with little evidence to back up their claims. To determine who is telling the truth and to make rulings that are in the child’s best interests, a judge may call on a forensic psychologist.

Interviewing parents and children

Psychologists help judges by conducting a series of interviews with the parents and children involved. When speaking with children, psychologists do not ask which parent they would prefer to live with because doing this will place the children in the middle of the dispute. Instead, psychologists will ask kids about the time they spend with their parents and the activities they participate in. When the interview process is over, psychologists present judges with their opinions in the form of written reports.

Testifying in court

This report becomes part of the official record, and psychologists may be called to testify in court to support their conclusions. Psychologists are more likely to be asked to defend their opinions in court when they believe one parent is trying to alienate the child against the other parent or when one parent is seeking custody just to be difficult or vindictive against the other parent. Judges do not have to heed the advice of psychologists, but they normally take what these trained professionals say seriously.

Psychologists in child custody negotiations

Emotions often run high during complex child custody negotiations, and parents sometimes become so fixated on one another that they lose perspective. In these situations, experienced family law attorneys may ask psychologists to intervene. They could do this in the hope that the opinions of impartial and well-trained professionals may help parents to find common ground and realize that the futures of their children are at stake.