CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATIONS
Remote Child Custody (Parenting Plan) Evaluations
Dr. Dale performs child custody evaluations by court-appointment after being selected by the Court or the attorneys for the parties. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Dale has been a leading advocate for using videoconferencing procedures to complete these evaluations. This advocacy is based upon a thorough review of how to integrate telepsychology best practices into an extensive child custody evaluation protocol. Many aspects of the evaluation - such as document review, collateral contacts, etc. - but videoconferencing for interviews of the parties and the children allows the parties to remain social distance and to be interviewed from their homes while Dr. Dale is in his office. Dr. Dale wrote one of the first professional articles on videoconferencing for the professional journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law (2020). This article is available for download or review on the Knowledge Center section of this website.
Child custody and parenting time evaluations are used to assist family courts. Evaluations are usually ordered when there are special issues that require the specialized knowledge of a psychologist or other mental health professional. They are often ordered to address issues such as allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse, or intimate partner violence. These evaluations are also often ordered when there are concerns about mental disorders,mental illnesses, or substance abuse, Expert evaluations can also provide courts and judges with information related to co-parenting problems, persistent conflict, parental alienation and/or when refuse-resist dynamics are present.
In each case, Dr. Dale develops the relevant psycholegal questions that are to be the focus of the evaluation, then designs a method for investigating and answering these questions. Child custody or parenting plan evaluations must address factors prescribed by state statutes and typically focus on each parent's parenting competence, parent-child relationships, and other issues that impact parenting or the child.
These evaluations involve five methodologies: (1) extensive document review (e.g., court filings, school records, medical or mental health records, etc.); (2) clinical and forensic interviews of the parents and children; (3) psychological assessment of the parents and children, including psychological testing (when necessary); (4) home visits and direct observations of the children and parent-child interactions; and (5) contacts with collateral sources (such as persons who have witnessed relevant interactions between the parents or between the parents and the children, teachers, medical and mental health treatment providers, etc.).
Dr. Dale's child custody evaluation reports are comprehensive and address the psycholegal questions identified at the beginning of the evaluation - including opinions about the ultimate issues of custody, residency, and parenting time. Each parent is asked to provide a Parenting Plan Declaration which outlines the parenting plan that parent believes is in the best interests of the child(ren).
Child custody evaluations are among the most complex of all psychological evaluations. They involve individual and comparative analyses of multiple persons along dimensions or factors identified by state statute, case-specific issues, relevant scientific research, and case law in order to determine a parenting plan that provides for the current and future well-being and welfare of the child.