A child custody evaluation is an assessment of comparative custodial fitness and a formulation of expert opinion pertaining to placement of a child(ren), and the dissemination of that opinion to the court, the litigants, and to the litigants’ attorneys (AFCC Model Standards). Such an evaluation involves an assessment of the child(ren)’s entire family system in order to make helpful and relevant recommendations. In Washington these evaluations are conducted consistent with WAC 246-924-445 and in Oregon ORS 107.137. This evaluation is designed to address the issue before the court, such as establishing an initial parenting plan (RCW 26.09.187), modification of an existing one (RCW 26.09.260), relocation (RCW 26.09.520), and other issues.
Psychological and parenting evaluations may be requested for a variety of reasons, including abuse, abandonment, chronic substance abuse, major mental illness, and others. Psychologists are often asked to evaluate a parent to determine risk factors for adequately parenting a child, prognosis for safely parenting a child, treatment needs, bond and attachment, recommendations for parent-child contact, and other issues. In each case, the best interest of the child is paramount. In Washington a report is prepared in response to issues arising under RCW 13.34.040 and .130.
An issue focused evaluation is designed to provide information on one or two issues bearing upon the custody of, parenting of, and access to the child(ren). Consistent with WAC 246-924-467 this type of evaluation is appropriate where there is no need for a full bilateral custody evaluation of comparative custodial fitness but where information on one or two issues could help the court, the parents, or the parents’ attorneys reach a decision on parenting, access, and custody. This can include assessment of substance abuse, psychological functioning of a party, sexual deviance, violence risk, allegations of sexual or physical abuse of a child, alienation, and developmentally appropriate.
Attorneys can request expert testimony on the research and other professional literature regarding issues central to a case. This can include research on issues pertaining to child custody (e.g., domestic violence, parental alienation, relocation, high conflict parents, relocation and the implications for parental responsibility, parenting time, and child development), sexual deviance, and other areas relevant to the court.
More often psychologists are being called upon to provide a critique of work performed by other experts who have provided their expert opinion on a matter. When there is concern about possible bias, methodological problems, establishing an adequate research foundation for recommendations, and drawing logical conclusions from findings a request for a review of the evaluation can be requested. This process starts with a review of the expert’s report and feedback to the retaining attorney on the strengths and weaknesses of the evaluation report. If there is indication of sufficient concern then a full review of the experts file can be done and a written report provided to the retaining attorney outlining deficiencies. The retaining attorney may also request expert testimony as a Reviewer and Rebuttal Expert.
Juvenile evaluations are often requested by attorneys, juvenile court counselors, and probation officers. Youth are evaluated for many reasons, including violence risk, treatment needs, competency to stand trial, diminished capacity, sexual risk, placement recommendations, and others. This information can be used for treatment planning and placement.
Psychologists are often called upon to conduct specialized evaluations of adult and juvenile sex offenders to help determine level of risk of recidivism, amenability to treatment, outline factors relevant for future risk of offending, make recommendations for level and type of treatment needed to address risk, and consult on risk management. To conduct such evaluations requires specialized training and experience.
We provide evidence-based personal injury evaluations for children, adolescents, and adults. Many of our plaintiffs/clients have experienced medical malpractice injuries, automobile accidents, workplace harassment, abuse as a child, or domestic violence during intimate partner relationships that have adversely affected their mental health functioning, interpersonal relationships, vocational capacity, and overall quality of life. In this capacity, our providers work closely with each client, their legal counsel, and medical team to determine the following:
Dr. Tutty and Dr. Poppleton currently provide these services at the Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, Bainbridge, and Silverdale offices.
Parenting coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process where a professional with mediation, and often clinical training helps parents in conflict implement their parenting plan and resolve their disputes. This service involved a combination of assessment, education, case management, and conflict management to help parents resolve their conflicts, and with the prior approval of the court facilitate decisions within the scope of their court orders. The objective is to help high conflict parents implement their parenting plan, monitor compliance, and resolve conflict in a time and cost efficient manner while minimizing court involvement. The ultimate aim of this role is to protect and sustain healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships (See AFCC Guidelines).
Understanding how divorce disrupts the social, emotional, and psychological adjustment of children/adolescents can be overwhelming, confusing, and complex. A mental health consultant assists a single parent to navigate their divorce/separation/ parenting concerns effectively, work effectively with their co-parent, and reduce on-going conflict for the best interest of their child(ren). To increase the probability of effectiveness, this is a confidential process which may fall under the attorney- client work product privilege. This can be a very valuable service for an attorney who is advocating for their client’s best interest to help their client not make critical mistakes in the divorce process that might make settlement over child custody matters more difficult. And for a parent who desires to understand how divorce/separation can disrupt the development of their child(ren), intervene early in the divorce/separation process to prevent a potentially costly and long custody battle, and to function optimally while in transition or custody proceedings for the best interest of their child(ren).
Co-parenting counseling is designed to help parents learn to parent together successfully so they can give their children the opportunity to adjust to family breakup and negotiate their lives successfully during and after divorce. This services provides a combination of mediation and psychotherapy to help parents learn to communicate with each other, resolve conflicts that arise in divorce and separation, formulate appropriate parenting plans, introducing significant others, and, among other things, address child developmental needs in divorce/separation and make day-to-day decisions for their children without requiring legal intervention. For some high conflict situations these options might not be appropriate.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where disagreeing parties can come together short of litigation to settle their disputes with the help of a third party. Participation is typically voluntary and includes a variety of benefits to the parties- including cost, confidentiality, self-determination, control, compliance, mutuality, and support. Agreements made in mediation can be ratified by the court. Mediation is often a desirable and cost effective alternative to litigation and for ongoing conflict resolution post separation/divorce.
For any number of reasons a child can lose contact with a parent. The legal community will sometimes get involved in such situations to reintroduce a child to his or her parent. Reunification therapy is an important service, to not only reconnect children and parents, but to set a foundation to support the ongoing relationship and minimize the potential for future disruption.