What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases? The Role of a Forensic Psychologist in Child Custody Cases
- The age of the child
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- Where the child’s siblings live
- The mental and physical well-being of the parents
- The parents’ caretaking capacity
Factors That Judges Consider in Child Custody Cases
Age of Child
- For children ages 0 to 2, who are in the sensorimotor stage, according to Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, maintaining the bond between the child and each parent is prioritized. Visitations should be frequent and time away from either parent should be minimized.
- Children ages 3 to 7, in the preoperational stage, are better able to tolerate separation, but they continue to need consistency, structure, and frequent contact with both parents.
- Preteens ages 8 to 11, in the concrete operational stage of development, will typically respond well both to spending some time away from either parent and frequent visitation. Depending on school and extracurricular activities and the child’s preference, spending more time with one parent than the other may be a better fit.
- Children age 12 and into adulthood, in the , are usually independent and seeking an identity outside of their parents. Judges encourage parents to be flexible, listen to older children’s needs, and solicit their input when establishing a custody schedule.
Relationship Between Child and Each Parent
Location of Child’s Siblings
Mental and Physical Well-Being of Parents
Parents’ Caretaking Capacity
What Does a Forensic Psychologist Do in Child Custody Cases?
Child Custody Evaluator
- Assisting attorneys in preparing depositions
- Reviewing cross-examination questions
- Helping clients prepare for their custody evaluation
- Creating developmentally appropriate parenting plans
- Testifying in court regarding new research or best practices
The Importance of Forensic Psychology Child Custody Evaluations
How Long Does a Child Custody Evaluation Take?
- Interviews of parents and children, including meetings and home visits
- Psychological testing of parents
- Payment to the evaluator
- Delivery of the evaluator’s report
How Can a Mother Lose Custody of Her Child? Common Reasons in Custody Cases
1. Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect
2. Mental Illness or Substance Abuse
3. Domestic Violence
4. Parental Alienation Accusation
Additional Resources: Benchmark Child Custody Cases
- Rivero v. Rivero, 125 Nev. 410 (2009): Established what constitutes joint physical custody and primary physical custody.
- Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972): Landmark case established father’s rights in the event of the death of a custodial mother.
- Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982): Established the enduring parental rights of unfit parents.
Grounds for Full Custody of Child: Common Reasons for Sole Custody Agreements
- A parent’s courtroom demeanor and dress
- The level of preparation by the parent
- Testimony from experts such as custody evaluators and educators