American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 52, Issue 4 (2016)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Consider a recent custody dispute presided over by Judge Michael Algeo in Montgomery County, Virginia.1 Here, a father Judge Algeo ordered previously into supervised visitation was asking the court to remove it. In weighing the request, Judge Algeo ordered the father to have a psychological evaluation. The psychologist who performed the evaluation advised the court it was safe for the child to have unsupervised visits with the father. Judge Algeo endorsed the psychologist’s recommendation. The fourth unsupervised visit resulted in the death of the child and the father charged with murder.2

In this tragic example, the court had significant concern that led it to originally order supervised visitation, but it then chose to listen to the advice of a psychologist instead of sticking with its own initial judgment. If the court had not followed the psychologist’s recommendation, that child might still be alive today. The same could be said if the court had not ordered a psychological evaluation in the first place. Can there be any doubt that a psychological evaluation in a custody matter can have harmful effects? As evidenced in Virginia, endorsing a psychologist’s recommendation ended in a child’s wrongful death.