Date of this Version
Court Review, Volume 52, Issue 4 (2016)
Child-custody evaluations have become commonplace in family-law disputes over living arrangements, parental decision making, and time-sharing with offspring. A quarter century ago, I raised the issue that child-custody evaluations had no scientific validity.1 When I reviewed the literature again a decade ago, the lack of scientific validity remained unchanged, prompting me to bring the issue directly to the readership of this journal.2 Unfortunately, even today’s prominent proponents of child-custody evaluations admit that at the present time there is still no scientific evidence whatsoever that a child-custody evaluation results in beneficial outcomes for the children involved.3
In light of the above, it is reasonable to ask: Why are child custody evaluations ordered with regularity when there is no scientific evidence to support them? There are a variety of reasons.
First, it is rational and fair to expect mental-health experts to be more capable at rearranging families than judges; after all, the latter are not trained as psychologists or psychiatrists, and in the quest to make these critical decisions correctly, it is prudent to look to experts for advice. However, this assumption comes into question because there is no scientific evidence proving that mental-health professionals are better at making child-custody decisions than judges. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that mental-health professionals are better at making child-custody decisions than anyone, be they professionals, laypersons, or otherwise.