psychological assessments for custody conflicts l.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
Download Presentation

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 30


  • Uploaded on

PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS FOR CUSTODY CONFLICTS. Ann Dell Duncan- Hively Ph.D.J.D . Wells Hively , Ph.D. June 17, 2010 Guardian ad Litem Training Salem, Missouri. The guardian ad litem as a mental health detective. Responsibility to understand the needs of the children

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation


An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
psychological assessments for custody conflicts


Ann Dell Duncan-HivelyPh.D.J.D.

Wells Hively, Ph.D.

June 17, 2010

Guardian ad Litem Training

Salem, Missouri

the guardian ad litem as a mental health detective
The guardian ad litem as a mental health detective
  • Responsibility to understand the needs of the children
  • Legal duty to zealously represent interests of children
  • Present accurate information to the Court as other attorneys are advocating their client
  • Distinguish between temporary conditions for family in conflict versus long term dysfunction
what why who should do it when
What?, Why? Who Should Do It?, When?

Systematic, objective description of psychological functioning of parents/children

To assist in decision making prior to conversation with other attorneys

Must use an expert who meets the Daubert standards

As early in the case as possible in order to facilitate PDL and/or settlement.

Need Court order and payment clarification

how severe is the conflict
How Severe is the Conflict?

It’s difficult to separate endemic from transitory rage

reasons to need a custody or psychological evaluation
Reasons to Need a Custody or Psychological Evaluation
  • Allegations of abuse to children
  • Allegations of domestic violence
  • History of poor conflict resolution skills
  • Legal history of drugs, alcohol, assaults
  • Alienation by one or both parents
  • Poisoning by grandparents or others
  • Unusual behaviors in child or children
unusual behaviors
  • Below age six
    • Rocking
    • Smearing feces
    • Loss of toilet skills
    • Chronic constipation
    • Attacking other children with objects
    • Refusal to take turns or cooperate
  • Between six and twelve
    • Chronic isolation
    • Fierce tantrums
    • Speech dysfluencies
    • Difficulty keeping friends
    • Rapid movements from one activity to another
    • Learning challenges
    • Hording objects and food
unusual behaviors7
  • Between ages 12 and 18
    • Cutting and other self injury
    • Delayed social development
    • Threats of self harm or harm to others
    • Violence to animals or small children
    • Bullying in home or in school
    • Social alienation
    • Gender confusion
unusual allegations
Unusual Allegations
  • Parental Alienation “Syndrome”
    • Not an actual syndrome but present in various amounts in most divorces
    • Dealing with death of marriage by monsterizingthe other parent
    • Can be subtle or overt
    • Purpose is to destroy relationship with other parent and “own” the children
    • See Grisso, T. Evaluating competencies: Forensic assessments and instruments (2nd), New York, Kluwer/Plenum, 2003
parental alienation
Parental Alienation

See Meier, J. Parental Alienation Syndrome & Parental Alienation: Research Reviews 2009

unusual allegations10
Unusual Allegations
  • Sexual Abuse
  • If arises during pendency of divorce, all cases must be evaluated
    • False or accurate? Depends on:
      • Age of complainant
      • Role of parent in disclosure
      • History of abuse in both parents
      • Beware of contaminating therapists and suggestive social services
abuse allegations
Abuse allegations

Related to domestic violence, physical , emotional or sexual abuse of children

custody evaluation looks at best interest of children
Custody Evaluation Looks at Best Interest of Children

Assessment of Parents Only Reflects Competency

who does a psychological assessment
Who Does A Psychological Assessment?
  • Licensed psychologists in Missouri
  • Trained in forensic assessments
  • History of good quality assessments
  • Capable of communicating without bias
  • Counselors licensed as LPC cannot diagnose and cannot interpret psychological tests
  • Social workers (LCSW) can diagnose but cannot interpret psychological tests
  • See new rule 20 CSR 2235-1.015 (12) limits administration and interpretation of psychological tests to licensed psychologists
components of the psychological evaluation
Components of the Psychological Evaluation
  • Histories of all
    • Family, forensic and sexual, medical (especially head trauma)
  • Cognitive Abilities
    • How each person thinks, flaws in language competency
  • Present Emotional States
    • Anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, etc
  • Personality Structures
    • How they typically deal with the world
  • Substance Abuse
    • It’s impact, if any, on all of the above, age of onset, types used
  • Current Other Relationships
  • Risk of Family Abuse
  • Parenting Interests and Abilities
format for the dsm iv diagnosis
Format for the DSM-IV Diagnosis
  • Axis I: Major mental illness
  • Axis II: Personality Disorders
  • Axis III: Physical contributors
  • Axis IV: Environmental Factors
  • Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning (range from 10 to 90, most commonly at 65 for mental health population)
  • (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition)

basics of psychological measurement
Basics of Psychological Measurement

Think Daubert Standard

(Fed. R. Evd. 702)

scientifically reliable and relevant

replicable results
Replicable Results

Don’t fluctuate wildly and mysteriously

Psychologists say “reliable”

Correlate with important variables

Psychologists say “valid”

Attorneys say “meet the Daubert Standard”

respected structured interviews and questionnaires
Respected Structured Interviews and Questionnaires
  • Early Developmental Family History

Various schools, child development centers and counseling services all

use these. They are very similar.

  • Forensic History and Parenting History

Greenberg Forensic/Parenting History Questionnaire

Developed by S.A. Greenberg, U. of Washington (now deceased) unpublished, but available from

  • Sexual History

Clark Sexual History Questionnaire, Revised (SHQ-R)

Abel Assessment, written section

respected quick and painless
Respected, Quick and Painless

Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI)

Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, 2nd Ed. (K-BIT)

Both available from

the respected personality tests
The Respected Personality Tests

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, 2nd Edition (MMPI-2)

Caldwell Scoring

Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, 3rd Edition (MCMI-III)

the famous rorschach test
The “Famous” Rorschach Test

Rorschach Comprehensive System

Rorschach Interpretive Assistance Program (RIAP 5)

psychopathy sociopathy

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist

risk of violence
Risk of Violence

Macarthur Study (2001)

Level of Service Inventory (LSI-R)

Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA)

Danger Assessment (prediction of murder)

best interest standard
Best Interest Standard
  • Requires observing children with both parents separately
  • May require a home visit to both homes
  • Find collateral information such as school records, pediatrician records, interview all grandparents
  • Tests appropriately geared to children’s age and developmental status
  • Report integrates multiple information sources without invading province of court
competency of parents
Competency of Parents
  • Common tests
    • MMPI-2 with parenting norms
    • Rorschach
    • PSI: parenting stress inventory
  • Common Questions
    • What level of risk for which parent
    • Predicting similar parenting behaviors
    • Length of marriage and success of mutual problem solving
after the assessment
After the Assessment
  • Red Flag Diagnostic Codes for Parenting
    • Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Socio or psychopathy
    • Narcissism
    • Primitive Personality Structure
    • Impulse control problems and rage reactions
    • Bi-Polar (untreated)
    • Active, chronic drug abuse and/or alcoholism
after continued
After continued
  • Children can endure and live with
    • Moderately impaired schizophrenics
    • Obsessive compulsive disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Dysthemia
    • Thought Disorder (mild)
    • Aspergers
helpful references
Helpful References
  • Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings.
  • Ellis, Elizabeth Divorce wars: Intervention with families in conflict. Washington D.C.,APA, 2000
  • Melton, G. et al. Psychological evaluations for the courts: A handbook for mental health professionals and lawyers (3rd), New York, Guilford Press, 2007
try it