Civil forensic assessment: child custody


Child custody is a contentious area of forensic psychology and often an area where many forensic psychologists are sued. It is easy to understand why: No matter what the recommendation, at least one of the parties will be extremely unhappy and will perceive that his or her children are being taken away as a result of the professional findings. Unfortunately, children can often be used as “pawns” for the parents, who in their highly emotional state may forget that the best interest of the child is what should matter most. Every day the legal system faces these difficult child custody cases, and professionals attempt to mediate and find solutions to assist in choosing the best alternatives for the children. It is often very difficult for all parties involved.

In this week’s Discussion, you will consider the high-profile case involving Bill O’Reilly and his own legal battle for child custody. How will you as the forensic psychology professional confront the difficulties of the media and the potential sensationalism involved in this case while also understanding the implications for communicating your opinions regarding the findings of the case?


Post a response to the following:

  • Explain what areas a forensic psychology professional may likely assess when making specific recommendations involving high-profile situations (such as the Bill O’Reilly case). Provide specific examples.
  • Recommend one juvenile forensic assessment instrument that the forensic professional would most likely utilize in making a decision regarding the case.
  • Provide specific guidelines for effective communication of forensic assessment findings, especially in light of the high-profile status of the case. Your ability as a forensic professional to remain impartial should be an important consideration.


Required Readings

Altman, B., & Treneff, C. (2014, May). Old and new solutions in high conflict custody cases. Paper presented at the American Bar Association Section of Family Law 2014 Spring CLE Conference. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (2016a). Guidelines for child custody evaluations in family law proceedings. Retrieved from 

Chasmar, J. (2016, March 2). Bill O’Reilly loses custody of his children in court battle. The Washington Times. Retrieved from

Hans, J. D., Hardesty, J. L., Haselschwerdt, M. L., & Frey, L. M. (2014). The effects of domestic violence allegations on custody evaluators’ recommendations. Journal of Family Psychology, 28(6), 957–966. doi:10.1037/fam0000025
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Patel, S., & Choate, L. (2014). Conducting child custody evaluations: Best practices for mental health counselors who are court-appointed as child custody evaluators. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 36(1), 18–30. doi:10.17744/mehc.36.1.e00401wv7134w505
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Resendes, J., & Lecci, L. (2012). Comparing the MMPI-2 scale scores of parents involved in parental competency and child custody assessments. Psychological Assessment, 24(4), 1054–1059. doi:10.1037/a0028585
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Zumbach, J., & Koglin, U. (2015). Psychological evaluations in family law proceedings: A systematic review of the contemporary literature. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46(4), 221–234. doi:10.1037/a0039329
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases

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