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Conducting Child Custody Evaluations


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Preface PART I: CRITICAL PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES 1. Introduction to the Role, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility How the Courts Benefit From an Evaluation How the Family Benefits From an Evaluation When is the Evaluation Harmful Who is the Client/Consumer Practical Standards and Ethical Issues Evaluator Biases Reducing the Risk of Bias 2. The Mental Health Expert's Many Possible Roles Therapists Therapeutic Reunification Collaborative Law Coach Psychologist Evaluator/Psychiatrist/Vocational Evaluator Mediator Consultant to Attorney/Expert Witness Parent Coordinator The Custody Evaluator Dual Relationships 3. Fundamental Questions in Most Custody Evaluations The Best Interests of the Child The Family's Relationships Parenting Strengths and Weaknesses The Co-Parental Relationship Time-Sharing Recommendations 4. General divorce-Related Research and Basic Statutory and Case Law A Quick Primer on Research Risks of Divorce to Children Risk vs. Resiliency Mitigating Factors Research on Parent's Relationships After Divorce Basic Statutory and Case Law Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act Troxel Vs. Granville (2000) Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction California Statutes and Case Law 5. Children's Developmental Needs A Developmental Framework PART II: CONDUCTING THE CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION 6. Conducting the Evaluation Part I: Observations and Techniques With Adults The Court Order and Initial Contact With Attorneys The Initial Phone Call and Contacts With Parents The Initial Contact The First Conjoint Appointment The Initial Individual Appointment The Second Interview and Beyond What to Believe? The Use of Psychological Tests 7. Conducting the Evaluation Part II: Observations and Techniques With Children Significant Issues in the Assessment of Children/Gaining Rapport at the Beginning of the First Interview Children and the Potential for Suggestibility Children and Their Language Gathering Information About the Child's Experiences Directly Assessing the Parent-Child Bond Siblings Together, or Not? Use of Play and Other Techniques in Understanding Children Home Visits The Preference of the Child 8. The Use of Psychological Testing in Custody Evaluations Review of the Literature Traditional Psychological Tests Tests Designed Specifically for Custody Evaluations Parenting Inventories Tests for Children Benefits of Using Tests Risks in Using Tests Computerized Test Results A Balanced Approach 9. Gathering of Collateral Data What is Collateral Data? Benefits of Using Collateral Data Record Review Gathering Lists of Collateral Sources Who To Talk To - A Concentric Circle Approach Interviewing Collateral Sources 10. Sharing the Results of the Evaluation - The Evaluation Report AFCC Model Standards Basic Characteristics of a Quality Report Information Which Must be in Every Report The Parents The Children Collateral Information Analysis and Summary Recommendations PART III: COMPLEX ISSUES TO BE EVALUATED 11. Non-Violent High Conflict Families Contribution From Personality Features Contribution From Other Sources Recommendations for High Conflict Families A Case for Sole Legal custody of Decision Making 12. Domestic Violence The Concept of Differentiation Approaching the Family's Domestic Violence Issues Parenting Problems of Domestic Violence Parents Gathering Data The Alphabet Soup of Using Data to Formulate Conclusions Using the PPPP Analysis with the RRR Concepts to Reach a Decision About the Parenting Plan Therapeutic and Structural Interventions 13. The Alienated Child Contribution to the Child's Alienated Response Parent Contributions to the Development of Alienation Child Contributions to the Development of Alienation Typical Alienated Behaviors in Children Emotional Impact of Alienation on Children Dynamics of the Larger System Evaluation of Alienation Other Reasons for Alignment With One Parent - What to Look for in the Children Concluding the Evaluation 14. Relocation Evaluations Legal Considerations in Relocation Evaluations - Relevant Case Law Legal Considerations in Relocation Evaluations - Relevant Statutory Law The Psychological Literature Related to Relocation Societal Issue That Often Lead to Requests to Move Factors for the Evaluator to Consider Special Issues in International Cases Avoiding Bias 15. Tackling the Terror of Testifying The Deposition The Process at Trial Preparing for the Testimony Testifying Procedures Stick to the Data Dealing With Hypothetical Questions Remain Professional Trick Questions Do's and Don'ts for Testifying in Court 16. Critiquing Evaluations 17. Conclusions Special Needs for Children Substance Abuse Issues Sexual Abuse Allegations Longitudinal Evaluations Conclusions Appendices Sample Court Order Sample Informed Consent and Retainer Agreement Sample Intake Form Sample Listing of Questions for Parents Sample Listing of Questions for Children Sample Alienation Analysis and Recommendation Sample Relocaiton Analysis and Recommendation References About the Author

About the Author

Philip Stahl, PhD, ABPP (Forensic), is a psychologist in private practice that conducts child custody evaluations and provides expert witness testimony. He is a provider of continuing education for psychologists and other mental health providers, and attorneys and Family Law Specialists in California. He has conducted trainings throughout the United States and internationally for child custody evaluators and others working with high-conflict families of divorce. He has presented workshops for judges throughout the country and is on the faculty of National Judicial College and is a frequent presenter at programs of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. As a Board member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, he was on the task force that drafted AFCC's "Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation". He was a member of the American Bar Association Wingspread Task Force on High Conflict Families. Dr. Stahl is on the Editorial Review Board of AFCC's journal, Family Court Review and the Journal of Child Custody. Along with his teaching, Dr. Stahl has written extensively on various issues in high-conflict divorce and custody evaluations. His previous books have been Conducting Child Custody Evaluations: A Comprehensive Guide, Complex Issues in Custody Evaluations, and Parenting After Divorce, 2nd Edition, and he is the co-editor of Relocation Issues in Child Custody Cases. His child custody evaluation was cited by the California Supreme Court in its landmark decision modifying 8 years of relocation case law in 1994 (In re Marriage of LaMusga 32 Cal.4th 1072, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 356, 88 P.3d 81). Most recently, Dr. Stahl was on the workgroup appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court that re-wrote Arizona's "Planning for Parenting Time" (2010). When he has free time, Dr. Stahl enjoys traveling, playing golf, and relaxing with family and friends.

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