Child Focused Custody Evaluations

A Child Custody Evaluation (CCE) may take many forms and is designed to provide information that may be helpful to a legal decision-maker in making decisions regarding a custody arrangement. Evaluations explore the individual skills, resources, talents, strengths, and weaknesses each parent offers in parenting each involved child.

A comprehensive CCE typically includes: interviewing a substantial number of individuals including both parents and each child; possibly observing each child with each parent (and perhaps with siblings and both parents together), the administration of psychological tests to all key participants; and the review of relevant documents. In a comprehensive Custody Evaluation, information will be gathered from multiple sources and from multiple measures as recommended by the American Psychological Association. In some situations, a more limited evaluation will be undertaken, in which case only limited information can be offered to a legal decision-maker. In other instances, the limited information may be pooled with data gathered by one or several other evaluators, to collectively yield a more comprehensive assessment.

A Children-First Custody Evaluation (CFCE) is specific in its focus on identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each child in a custody dispute and then identifying the abilities and weaknesses each parent may or may not have with regard to each of their children’s needs. A CFCE differs from a traditional CCE in the order in which information is obtained. In traditional CCEs parents are interviewed first regarding their concerns, which typically then has a primary focus on their disagreements with the other parent. Research has showed that with this process the individual who meets second with the evaluator is often dissatisfied with the results of the evaluation. This is thought to be due to information-processing biases, such as the primacy effect, which results in hypotheses being generated from the first information being received and all subsequent information being analyzed in that light. As a result, Dr. Hasler only conducts CFCEs so that each parent receives the same opportunity to express their concerns for each child individually, but they first meet together with Dr. Hasler to help her identify the scope of the evaluation for each child.