Thousands of New Jersey couples end their marriages through divorce proceedings every year. Separation becomes much more complicated when child custody is part of the negotiation. In intense cases, the court may ask a forensic psychologist to help determine what is best for the children.
Child custody cases are more than determining who sees children on holidays. A forensic psychologist’s priority is assessing the mental health and safety needs of children in the family. Developing trust between a psychologist and a child takes time, and this phase may require several sessions.
The psychologist will observe children under several circumstances. For older children, they will conduct individual interviews. They may also visit the child at home or school to understand family dynamics and assess behavior outside the home.
Assessing the best arrangement for a child requires understanding the attitudes and parenting abilities of the spouses. The psychologist may interview the parents alone or together. These interviews provide insight as to the healthiest long-term setting for their children.
The court may also ask the psychologist to provide information about the mental health of one or both spouses. In addition, there may be questions about a parent’s ability to care for children alone.
Forensic psychologists also interview adults with whom children regularly interact outside the immediate family. These discussions open a window to the stress children may be experiencing and how they are coping.
Determining the best outcome
The psychologist submits a report to the court at the end of the process. The findings in this document may be enough to persuade divorcing parents to come to an agreement. It also provides necessary information if a judge needs to make the final custody decision.
Divorce is challenging under any circumstances, especially so when children are involved. The court’s goal is to provide a solution that preserves their health and well-being in a tricky situation.