Court-Appointed Family Psychologists and Divorce and Custody Proceedings

Will a New Law Help Divorcing Parents Spend Time with Their Children?

In divorce and custody disputes, alleged behavioral challenges on the part of parents and children may result in the loss of a parent’s right to gain custody of or even visit a child or children. A court-appointed psychologist is often instrumental in deciding how custody and visitation disputes are resolved. Court-appointed psychologists can interview family members and address potential issues involving:
• Criminal behavior;
• Possible abuse;
• Alcohol and drug use and abuse; and
• Parental effectiveness.

Most will agree that psychologists are the best choice for assessing family-related problems. But families need to be able to address concerns regarding a particular psychologist’s alleged competency issues or ethical violations.

Currently, parents in divorce and custody/visitation cases must bring concerns regarding a psychologist to the judge handling his or her case. Yet, many parties involved have questioned this process, claiming judges do not have the background needed to assess psychologists’ capabilities. 

Arizona Senator Steve Smith of Maricopa agrees. He has authored a bill that would put the handling of concerns regarding court-ordered psychologists in the hands of the Board of Psychological Examiners. 

In one case, a young mother had not been able to see her children even once, following what she claims was unethical behavior on the part of the court-appointed evaluator. When she attempted to address her concerns via the Board of Psychological Examiners, she was told she must go through a judge, who subsequently denied her request for a hearing on two occasions. Smith’s bill would allow parents questioning a psychologist to address the psychologist’s decisions and qualifications with his or her peers. 

Regardless of the outcome of the proposed law, Senator Smith’s bill highlights the difficulties parents face when attempting to achieve custody and visitation goals during and after divorce proceedings. Cohen Family Law, in Phoenix, Arizona, can handle all legal steps in your divorce or custody dispute, and can also propose alternative dispute resolution options such as divorce mediation. Contact our firm today at (602)714-8898 for a free consultation.