Reviews of Child Custody Evaluations
Unfortunately, some disputes at the end of a marriage become highly acrimonious, especially disagreements over the custody of children. When parents are unable to reach agreement regarding access to their children, the court may appoint a psychologist to conduct a child custody evaluation. Child custody evaluations are complex undertakings because they usually involve multiple, serious allegations that require thorough investigation and thoughtful analysis of each family member’s point-of-view. Specialized knowledge, skill and expertise is necessary to properly conduct a child custody evaluation and ensure that all relevant information is collected before making a recommendation.
After a child custody evaluation has been completed there may be questions about its thoroughness, about the methods that were or were not employed, whether the psychological tests were correctly interpreted, or whether the recommendations are reasonable based on the obtained information. A work product review is designed to answer these and other questions and to assist parents and attorneys in deciding how to proceed.
A serious problem following separation or divorce occurs when a child harshly disparages or vehemently rejects contact with a parent. This behavior pattern has been labeled parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome (PAS); although, contemporary child custody examiners prefer the term child alienation. When a child is alienated from a parent, it causes understandable concern. However, divorced parents often disagree about the basis for their child’s negative, polarized attitude. When child alienation becomes extreme, the family may be referred for an evaluation to determine the origin of the problem and to identify appropriate interventions. Child alienation typically involves multiple influences, and correctly identifying each one is crucial to formulating a plan to repair the damaged parent-child relationship and to supporting a child’s post-divorce adjustment.
Visitation Resistance or Refusal
Following divorce, parent-child relationships can be marked along a continuum. At the healthy end of the continuum, a child has a positive—or allied—relationship and maintains contact with both parents. Allied children sometimes resist contact with a parent for developmentally normal reasons or because of a stronger affinity for the other parent. At the other end of the continuum, a child is alienated from a parent. Alienated children typically express distorted or exaggerated reasons for rejecting a parent and deny any positive feelings for that individual. And in the middle, a child prefers contact with one parent, either because of a stronger alliance with that individual or because the child is estranged from the other parent. Estranged children often resist or refuse contact due to a history of violence, abuse, or neglect, and express credible reasons for their resentment and trepidation. A thorough evaluation can differentiate between allied, estranged, and alienated children. This is an important distinction because estranged children and alienated children require different assistance and therapeutic interventions.
When a spouse files for divorce and contends that physical abuse occurred during the marriage it is extremely important to properly investigate the allegation. This spouse may also assert that the abusive parent will perpetuate future domestic violence, including child abuse, and seek custody. Children that have been exposed to the abuse of a parent are at risk of being abused themselves and require protection. When the court system is confronted with allegations of domestic or family violence in the context of divorce, careful investigation is required to distinguish selective reporting of historical events or intentional misrepresentation from actual violence or credible threats of harm. An accurate and thorough assessment of allegations of domestic violence is critical to determining child custody and parenting time schedules that are in the children’s best interests.
Meet Dr. Daniel Swerdlow-Freed
Dr. Daniel Swerdlow-Freed has conducted child custody evaluations for over 20 years. During that time he established a reputation for comprehensive and methodical evaluations of parents and children. His extensive experience served as the basis for thorough assessments into allegations of alienation, child physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and resistance and refusal to have contact with a parent. Dr. Swerdlow-Freed’s knowledge of the social science research literature enabled him to make recommendations that were developmentally appropriate for children of all ages.
Dr. Swerdlow-Freed currently focuses his extensive experience and knowledge on conducting reviews of child custody evaluations. Work product reviews include examination of the child custody evaluator’s report and underlying data, and assess whether the evaluation was properly conducted and meets current professional standards.
Dr. Daniel Swerdlow Freed has been providing case consultation, work product review, expert witness testimony, and evaluations of criminal responsibility and competencies to stand trial and waive Miranda rights for over 25 years. All services are available to prosecution, plaintiff, and defense counsel. Forensic evaluations are available throughout Michigan only. Case consultation, work product review and expert witness testimony is available throughout the United States. If you would like to speak with Dr. Swerdlow-Freed about the unique needs of your case, call 248.539.7777 to schedule a consultation.