Reaching agreement at the time of divorce is not always easy. Some families experience complex problems and difficulties, which makes it difficult to determine what the post-divorce arrangements regarding themselves and their children should be. These parents need assistance in drafting a Parenting Plan. A psychological assessment could assist the parents in determining:
How they should structure decision-making regarding important issues such as education, extra-mural activities, medical care and religion between them.
A Residency Plan, which would determine where the children would live when.
Remedies for any other difficulties, e.g. phasing in of contact, alienation, monitoring of substance abuse, domestic violence and other problems.
A person qualified and experienced in this area of psychology should do the psychological assessment. You could exacerbate your family’s problems by utilising the services of a person who does not have the necessary competency in this field. In conducting the assessment the psychologist should adhere to certain standards of practice. Such standards include but are not limited to:
The psychologist who does the assessment can not be involved with the family in another capacity, for instance be the therapist of one or more family members. In other words, a psychologist cannot assume multiple roles.
The psychologist should focus on making recommendations that serves the best interests of your children. If you have the expectation that the psychologist should join you in the "fight with your spouse", you will be disappointed with the outcome of the assessment. The APA describes the purpose of a child custody evaluation in the following manner:
The primary purpose of the evaluation is to assess the best psychological interests of a child.(See the Children’s Bill for criteria to assess the best interest of a child.)
The child’s interests and well being are paramount.
The focus of the evaluation is on parenting capacity; the psychological and developmental needs of the child, and the resulting fit.
The psychologist could only make recommendations once he / she has consulted with both parents. It therefore does not make sense that one psychologist assesses one parent and another psychologist assesses the other parent.
The psychologist should use comparative procedures with both parents. In other words the same interviews, tests and procedures should be used in assessing both parents.
The psychologist should use multiple sources of information. This could include personal interviews, psychometric testing, assessments of the children, home visits, interactional observations, case conferences, interpretative conferences and collateral interviews.