December 2, 2007

Hot off the press: New child custody text

The Art and Science of Child Custody Evaluations

by Jonathan W. Gould and David A. Martindale

Back in the dark ages, a psychologist hired by one parent or the other in a child custody case could waltz into court and give a subjective clinical opinion about which parent was more fit and what would be in the children's best interests. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Such a psychologist might be legally barred due to inadequate training or experience, or might face legal action by the other parent. Back in 1998 (with a revised edition published last year), Jonathan Gould wrote a really helpful manual called Conducting Scientifically Crafted Child Custody Evaluations. The guide was aimed at helping custody evaluators avoid the many pitfalls and landmines in this litigious subfield of forensic psychology. Now, he has teamed up with fellow expert David A. Martindale to bring us even more of the latest information and advice in this rapidly evolving area.

The authors focus both on the law and on the clinical practicalities. Clear and well-written chapters explore ethics and bias, child interviewing, child development research, assessing parents, child sexual abuse allegations, domestic violence, and child alienation. The authors carefully explain the primary legal standard in child custody work, "The Best Interests of the Child" standard. Of special use to the practitioner, the appendix contains sample letters and statements of understanding, all with permission to freely photocopy.

The overall messages here are ones worth repeating: Know the law, know the science, remain unbiased, and be humble. This updated reference book will be useful not only to child custody evaluators but also to attorneys and to students of forensic psychology.