Tippins and Whitman in 2005: Child Custody Evaluations Are Fraud:
We try to keep you up on the latest legal and psychological research for child custody and the law, but now we’re going to have to go back a few years, but only to make a point. Bear with us, you may learn something useful today if we’re not careful….
A friend pointed out recently the uncanny resemblance between the NFL’s foot-dragging in recognizing brain injury by concussions and the divorce industry’s polyanish reluctance to acknowledge the fraudulent harm of child custody evaluations. It’s a keen observation–The divorce industry may be heard to claim “we didn’t know” that child custody evaluators were fraudulent. “We didn’t know” that the evaluators were bilking parents out of millions. “We didn’t know” that the evaluations caused enormous harm and endangered the lives of children and parents alike.
“We didn’t know…. and besides, the courts and lawyers love psychological evaluators!”
Well, football fans love bone-crushing, brain-damaging football matches too, and there’s nothing more scientifically reliable for a medical hypothesis than a football stadium full of season ticket holders, but some are just annoyingly curious. What does (and did) the divorce industry know about reliability of child custody evaluators, and when did they know it?
In 2005, experienced child custody lawyer Timothy Tippins and psychologist Jeffrey Whittman published a study in the leading Family Law industry journal “Family Court Review.” They studied the scientific methodology behind child custody evaluations, years of clinical research longitudinal studies, ethics, and market dynamics. They applied the scientific method to attempt to “validate” the methods used by forensic psychologists in custody evaluations–is there any science to determining the “best interests of the child”? Is a psychologist charging hundreds of dollars per hour any better than a judge, jury, or layperson, or (lest we forget) the child’s own parents?
Their conclusion: The methods relied on by psychologists in selling child custody evaluations are shaky and questionable at best–in most cases little or no better than a layperson’s guesswork, so lawyers and judges must beware of the potential for fraud by those who get paid to say otherwise.
Good advice–and more importantly honest advice from a lawyer and psychologist themselves who might otherwise be inclined to support the field of child custody evaluations. Read on to learn more about Tippins’ and Whitman’s findings, and look at family court practices since publication of this article in 2005–have judges, court personnel, attorneys, and evaluators themselves heeded Tippins and Whitman’s advice and “call for clinical humility and judicial vigilance?”