“Throughout America, there is a little known fact regarding psychologist recommendations in custody disputes: they can lead to dead children… Sadly, these fatalities come as no surprise because for decades I have warned that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that child custody evaluations result in beneficial outcomes for children. In a recent issue of Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, I reported the first quantitative study on harmful effects of child custody evaluations… parents from 35 States who participated previously in child custody evaluations provided the following results: 65% of parents reported that the custody evaluation was not in their children’s best interest financially…25% said their children experienced negative effects from the evaluation…20% of parents reported the custody evaluation made their children worse”
Turkat, I.D. (2018) Psychologist recommendations in custody disputes can be harmful, even fatal. American Journal of Family Law, 32, 5-8.
Reprinted here with permission of the American Journal of Family Law
These facts paint a very troubling view of today’s child custody evaluations.
Families that rely on these examinations whether court ordered or not, appear to do so with a degree of risk to their offspring. Further, there is no clear scientific evidence to support judges’ beliefs that custody evaluators know better than them in managing custody arrangements. And, there is no proper scientific evidence to support custody evaluators’ beliefs that they know better than judges or anyone else as to how best devise family arrangements when child custody is contested.
The fact is that psychologists have failed the children, families and judges involved in custody battles by not doing the proper scientific research as well as allowing parents and the court to believe that custody evaluations are truly in the best interest of children, when there is no body of scientific proof.
Likewise, there is no scientific evidence to prove that the “Guidelines” offered by professional organizations for performing a custody evaluation actually helps children. Without scientific evidence as such, a psychologist who claims to have followed these “Guidelines” should also be required to advise the parents and court that there is no scientific evidence that these “Guidelines” produce better results for children compared to no custody evaluation being done.
Finally, there is no scientific evidence proving that highly experienced custody evaluators produce better outcomes for children than not having a custody evaluation performed. Great credentials may impress a court but they do not override the lack of proper scientific evidence regarding child custody evaluations. All custody evaluators suffer from the same lack of a proper scientific basis proving that custody evaluations are helpful to children.
I sincerely hope psychologists will finally make a major effort to change the status quo.