Forensic Child Custody Evaluations

It is estimated that 40-50% of American children will experience their parents’ divorce before the age of 18. This presents a serious challenge to these children.

Parents engaged in a contentious divorce may not be focused on or equipped to address what arrangements should be made that are in the children’s best interest.

One such arrangement which will affect a child is whether they will be able to maintain a close relationship to a parent under a particular co-parenting schedule.

The question of “What is in the children’s best interest” can be subject to empirical investigation. One consideration, from the research, is the child’s age. What is best for a one year old may be quite different from what is best for an 11 year old.

Most couples make custody/co-parenting decisions with no input from professionals of any kind. Other couples seek council with Mental Health professionals, pediatricians, attorneys, and clergy to come to an agreeable arrangement.

In about 10% of divorces involving children, parents are unable to agree about custody and visitation arrangements, and litigation is initiated. The resulting process of discovery, mandated mediation, and evaluation has been estimated to result in agreed resolution of about 90% of these disputes. Approximately 1% of custody decisions are the result of trials. Judicial decisions have a far-reaching impact on the lives of many children of divorce.

The role of the psychologist, who is assigned by the court to perform a forensic psychological evaluation, is multi-faceted.

  1. Based upon their knowledge of the kinds of facts that are likely to be relevant to the decision, they collect data about the particular situation.
  2. Using previous knowledge, and further research, they refer to studies that may be relevant to the facts they find, assess the pertinence of the studies to the situation, and aply their finding to the facts at hand.
  3. Weighing the relative importance of these facts, they attempt to integrate the resulting conclusions into an overall scientifically reliable recommendation.

Rigorous assessment of parenting must be objective. Methods of assessment include self-report, observation of parents and children, structured and non-structured observations of interactions in the office, and information from collateral sources. In addition, valid psychological testing is also included.

Dr. Grodin has been providing court ordered forensic psychological evaluations for over 20 years. He has worked with families and courts in all areas of the Capital District.

Dr. Grodin has testified as an expert witness in custody trials. He is sought out for his expertise in child development, adult personality disorders, substance use disorders, parent alienation, and domestic violence. He is approved by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to perform clinical screenings and assessments for their Impaired Driver and Drunk Driver Programs. He is experienced in the assessment of domestic violence in its many forms. Dr. Grodin is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts as well as the New York State Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association.