This is the audio and transcript of presentations of a panel that focused on child custody evaluations in domestic violence cases, which was part of the 2009 NIJ Conference.
One presenter describes the methodology and preliminary findings of two pilot online surveys with 62 evaluators of circumstances surrounding child custody cases, specifically those case in which one or both of the parents claim domestic violence and/or child abuse against the other parent. Issues in evaluators' criteria and outcomes in such cases (e.g., joint custody, sole custody, supervised visitation, and false allegations) are discussed.. Another panel presenter discusses a similar study in New York State, which assessed custody evaluators' perceptions of causes of domestic violence and whether this influences how they interpret the situation in terms of the child's best interests. One issue considered is sources and means of data collection on the family situation, given that any situation of family conflict involves participants and observers with subjective opinion that must be evaluated objectively. A case typical of the issues involved is presented. A third presenter, a judge, discusses a judicial perspective on research in the evaluation and decisionmaking in custody cases. The judge must decide a custody case based on the court-appointed evaluator's report and recommendation. The presenter recognizes the need for judges in such cases to become specialized through training on domestic violence, child development, parental alienation issues, and child abuse. The judge sees problems in having untrained judges making final custody decisions based on their assessment of a specially trained evaluator of the issues in a child custody case.
Date Published: June 1, 2009
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