“The results of the present study question the assumption that child-custody evaluations are in the best interest of children. The data herein demonstrate that almost one in four children experienced negative effects from these evaluations, including parental reports of harm and children’s lives made worse in one in five cases. Further, two-thirds of parents did not feel child-custody examinations are in their children’s best financial interest; looking back, they oppose spending money on these evaluations… For the first time, the judiciary now has some quantitative information about the effects of child-custody evaluations. Unfortunately, these initial data suggest custody evaluations may harm children.” (p. 156)
Turkat, I.D. (2016) Harmful effects of child-custody evaluations on children. Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 52, 152-158.
I conducted this research study for a very simple reason: while it has been known for decades that custody evaluations have no scientific evidence to prove they help children’s lives – – which has not stopped professional custody evaluators from performing them, I have been concerned for quite some time that these evaluations have the potential to cause significant harm. Given decades of custody evaluations being performed, you would think someone would have researched harmful effects. No one did. So, I did.
Hopefully, this initial study will “awaken” the field and lead to more sophisticated research investigations on custody evaluation effects with the ultimate aim of developing ones that improve children’s lives and don’t cause harm. Given the results obtained, I likewise felt duty-bound to educate the judiciary of this simple truth: since there is no scientific evidence that custody evaluations benefit children, to the extent that these evaluations can have harmful effects, one can prevent such harm from occurring by not permitting a custody evaluation.
Given that the research data I presented runs contrary to the common and scientifically unproven belief that custody evaluations are beneficial, the Editors of Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association invited notable professional custody evaluators – – Drs. Jonathan Gould and Allan Posthuma, to comment on my research article and in turn, for me to respond to them. I strongly recommend anyone interested in child custody evaluations to thoroughly examine all three articles. In my response to Jonathan Gould and Allan Posthuma, Child Dead and Parent Charged with Murder After Psychologist Recommends Said Parent to Court: Turkat Responds to Gould and Posthuma’s Custody-Evaluation Fallacies, you will gain a fuller grasp of the kinds of problems that exist with these evaluations, the errors in the arguments made by custody evaluators Gould and Posthuma regarding the research findings and related issues, and why I say that in the absence of a body of clear and direct scientific proof that custody evaluations actually help children – – there is no such thing as a scientifically crafted child custody evaluation.