They also appreciate specific custody and parenting time recommendations, and other recommendations (such as treatment or parenting coordination when appropriate) which would benefit the best interests of the children. I have done several hundred evaluations over the past twenty years. So when I do an evaluation, I organize my thoughts by the factors, unless directed not to do so. I don’t typically recommend that a factor be awarded to one party or the other; that is the Court’s purview. I address the Issues, relevant to the Individual case, which fall under each factor.
Some Issues are relevant to multiple factors. The factors allow me to organize my findings, and this organization not only informs my recommendations, but should be useful to the attorneys, family counselor, referee or judge in using my findings to resolve the legal issues in dispute. Attorneys most often want these kinds of analyses, because they help them to settle cases. The vast majority of cases in which have performed an evaluation result In a settlement without an evidentially hearing, and these analyses help to facilitate a settlement.
My recommended solution is a specific order which details what issues to address. The Michigan Child Custody Act According to the Michigan Child Custody Act (MAC 722. 23) the “best interests of the child” means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court: Factor A: The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties and the children. Factor B: The capacity and disposition of the parties to give the children love, affection, and guidance and continuation of the educating and raising of the of the children in their religion or creed, if any.
Factor C: The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the children with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state In place of medical care, and other material needs. Factor D: The length of time the children have lived In a stable, satisfactory environment, nit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes. Factor F: The moral fitness of the parties involved. Factor G: The mental and physical health of the parties involved. Factor H: The home, school, and community record of the child.
Factor l: The reasonable preference of the children, if the court deems the children to be of sufficient age to express preference. Factor J: The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the children and the other party. Factor K: Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the children. Factor L: Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular dispute regarding termination of a guardianship, removal of a guardian, or visitation.
The Forensic Psychologist’s Contribution Let me briefly discuss some elements of the what is the Best Interests factors upon which a skilled and experienced forensic psychologist can offer helpful opinions: Factor a: The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties and the children. In my opinion, the forensic psychologist’s relevant expertise includes the ability to observe and analyze: The relative emotional health of the bonds between the parties and the children. The issue is not Just to whom the children and parents are attached, but the relative strength and health of those attachments.
Are these secure, insecure, disorganized? How are these bonds impacted by developmental issues with the children, or by emotional difficulties, family dynamics, or personality difficulties in the parents? Can the parties separate the children’s needs from their own? To whom the children look to meet their physical and emotional needs. To whom do they turn with problems, successes or triumphs? What do the children say about their parents (if they are old enough to talk about their parents)? Do they express preferences, and in what circumstances do they prefer each parent?
Factor b: The capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance and continuation of the educating and raising of the of the children in their religion or creed, if any. A skilled forensic psychologist can observe and analyze: The interaction between parents and children (e. G. , responsiveness, warmth, affection, patience, reciprocity, limit-setting). Parenting capacities (e. G. , knowledge of child development, communication skills, consistency and appropriateness of guidance and discipline, accurate perception of child’s communications and needs). Parenting liabilities (e. G. Active impact of parental problems, fearfulness in the parent-child relationship, manipulation of the children to spite the other parent). Parents’ involvement and the helpfulness of their involvement in the children’s education. Parents’ involvement in the children’s religious development. Parents’ involvement in the children’s activities outside the home or religious activities. Factor c: The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the children with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
The specialized expertise of the psychologist is likely to be helpful in determining: The appropriateness and adequacy of that care. The parents’ knowledge and expensiveness to the special needs of a child. The parents’ knowledge about, and responsiveness to, issues of safety. Psychological issues which might affect a parent’s ability to earn, fiscal responsibility, disposition to make sure that physical needs are properly addressed. Factor d: The length of time the children have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
Examples of relevant issues where the expertise of the psychologist is likely to be helpful: The significance for each child of issues of stability, appropriateness of relationships and environments, and how satisfactory is each environment from the perspectives of the child’s development and emotional welfare. The likely impact on the child of proposed environmental changes. Factor e: The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes. The forensic psychologist can be helpful in addressing: Issues related to step-siblings or half siblings in each parent’s home.
The stability (observed or expected) of adult relationships (including engagements and marriages) involving the contesting parties. Factor f: The moral fitness of the parties involved. Relevant expertise of the psychologist includes assessment of the following kinds of issues: Possible alcohol and/or drug problems or other addictive behavior. The history and implications, if present, of a history of criminal behavior, rule violations, driving problems. Issues of the implications, meanings, and future risk of abusive behavior (sexual, emotional or violent). Factor g: The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
Examples of relevant issues where the expertise of the psychologist is likely to be helpful: Issues of psychological health or disturbance. In this case, the issue is what specific impact a psychological problem or illness, if present, is likely to have on parenting and on the child or children. Issues of substance abuse. In this case, the issue is what specific impact a substance problem is likely to have on parenting and on the child or children. Issues of the potential for abuse, harm, or neglect to the children. Factor h: The home, school and community record of the children. For example:
Each parent’s involvement in each child’s school success or problems. Each parent’s involvement in each child’s success or problems in the community or in extracurricular activities. The adequacy of supervision. The parents’ involvement in behavioral/emotional/social problems. Assessing treatment or other remedial needs of the children. Factor I: The reasonable preference of the children, if the court deems the children to be of sufficient age to express preference. The experienced forensic psychologist has the skills to address: The child’s level of maturity, intelligence, and reasoning.
The reasons the child provides for his or her preferences. , and how relevant these are to the child’s best interests. The independence from bias, influence or pressure by adults of the child’s preferences. Manipulation of the child by others. Manipulation by a child (e. G. , an adolescent) in expressing a preference. The risk for flip-flopping in preferences. Experienced forensic psychologist can address: If one or more parties (or their allies) have been placing the children in the middle of loyalty conflicts; Disparagement of the other parent to the child. Exposure of the children to adult issues.
Attempts to alienate the child from the other parent. What is needed (would be helpful) to address such problems, if they occur? Factor k: Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the children. The experienced forensic psychologist can assess: The impact of experienced or witnessed abuse on the child. The pattern and dynamics of the violence or abuse. The risk for future domestic violence. Factor l:- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular spite regarding termination of a guardianship, removal of a guardian, or visitation.