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Child custody assessment: a field survey of spanish forensic psychologists’ practices

Author(s): Mila Arch | Adolfo Jarne | Maribel Peró | Joan Guàrdia

Journal: European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
ISSN 1889-1861

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 107;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Divorce | Separation | Child custody | Sole custody | Joint custody | Forensic assessment | Decision-making criteria

The participation of forensic psychologists has become common practice in proceedings involving families in dispute over child custody, and also to assess the suitability of joint custody. In order to know the practice, methodology, and decision-making criteria of Spanish forensic psychologists experienced in family cases, 66 Spanish forensic psychologists (error margin ±.06) responded to a Spanish adaptation of the questionnaire for the assessment of child custody evaluation practices by Keilin and Bloom (1986) and Ackerman and Ackerman (1997). The results showed that it was indifferent for the respondents to be retained by the court or one of the parties, and that the evaluation included a document review, each parent’s individual interview, each child’s individual interview, psychological tests run to parents and children, observation of parent-child interaction, and reports by other professionals. As regards the custody type, most of them chose sole custody. As for decision-making criteria for sole custody, the results showed that Spanish forensic psychologists follow a hierarchical decision-making model that begins, firstly, with the application of criteria concerning the child’s protection (e.g. cruelty, abuse, negligence), then moving on to parental abilities. The decision over joint custody also follows a hierarchical decision-making model, where suitability is assessed initially and, if applicable, a decision is made based on its possible success or failure.
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