Getting The Whole Picture In Custody Evaluations

There are two ways to make custody evaluations holistic 1. The “whole” picture means the past, present, and future are equally important. During custody disputes, there is a recognition that everyone is under stress and therefore not going to look their best. Some of the most intellignet, nicest people on earth just don’t do well under stress. And what could be more stressful than the legal process which reinforces people as adversaries? That means that in order to learn how parents really function, the evaluator needs to get a picture over time. She needs to get a past history and several present interviews. Personality tests taken now, when things are highly stressed, give a distorted picture. Old tests, say for military service, taken when people were performing at their peak, will give me a much more accurate picture of the person. On the other hand, we all should be learning from experience. Parenting classes, for example, provide the kind of information that, if taken seriously, literally change the personality of the person taking them. It is up to the evaluator, during intensive interviews, to determine just how life-changing such learning experiences actually were for the parent. Based on this information, a sensitive evaluator can make fairly good predictions as to the future behavior of a particular individual. 2. The “whole” picture includes the whole family. The evaluator meets individually with the parents and the child or children. It is important to find out the parents’ strengths, resources, and readiness to resume the challenges of parenting. The evaluator also needs to meet the child alone to find out his or...
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