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Forensic psychology and custody cases

When people in Pennsylvania think about forensic psychology, it’s likely that they imagine criminal law. Media typically focuses on the most extreme applications of forensics. But in actuality, forensic psychology refers to the discipline where psychology intersects with the legal system. Many times, forensic psychologists don’t work in the criminal courts at all; some of them specialize in family court cases.

Forensic psychologists and child custody

The two most common sticking points in divorce cases relate to the division of assets and to child custody. Some divorces are amicable, with each party taking the needs and desires of the other into account, but this isn’t always the case. Couples may take many different steps without reaching a settlement. In those cases, a child custody evaluation could be ordered.

The evaluation process

In a child custody evaluation, a forensic psychologist will speak to several parties. This includes both spouses as well as the children involved. They will likely follow up and see everyone multiple times. The evaluator needs to report back to the court with a comprehensive picture of what’s happening in the family.

Good evaluators never directly tell the child that they must choose which parent to live with. This can create too much pressure for the child or give them an unrealistic sense of their power in the family. At the end of the evaluation process, the forensic psychologist will present a written report to the court. Sometimes, divorce lawyers will agree to have an evaluation conducted. In other cases, they may think it’s inappropriate, and a judge will have to order one. It all depends on the specifics of the situation.

If you are involved in a custody battle, a family law attorney may help you understand your legal options. Your attorney might recommend bringing in a psychologist to strengthen your claim.