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PSYC 3310 (64)
Chapter 13

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PSYC 3310
Gwen Jenkins

Chapter 13 – Child Custody Decisions: Extent of the Problem:  Parents who kidnap tend to have strong ties with kids, view other parent as incompetent, doubt ability of child-protection agencies/courts to render justice  Men majority of abductors What Roles Can Psychologists Play?:  Can work with 1 member of family, couple together, or kids Marriage Counsellor:  If couple sought help for marriage, but then decides divorce, counsellor shouldn’t be given responsibility of advising judge about best custody arrangements for kids  Reason is it creates conflict of interest, psychologist would have dual relationship o Has had therapeutic rel with couple, now asked to be objective evaluator of personalities/lifestyles  Ethical principles dictate matters revealed in privacy of counselling rel should remain there Mediator:  If cant agree on custody, have mediation as alternative to litigation  Mediation has several attractions: o More informal, rules of evidence don’t have to be allowed, court personnel/adversarial lawyers aren’t present  However specially trained lawyers may serve as mediators o Sessions usually held in private, proceedings are confidential o Participants in mediation more satisfied with process/outcome than those who use courts o Cases settled quickly than if go through court  Psychs/lawyers can be Ms  Allocation of material recourse in divorce have implications for child custody  M is to try and help parties resolve diffs through agreement  Explores options with couple, safe environ for communication  Mediator can distinguish between demands/needs, examination of underlying needs can sometimes resolve disputes  Provides opportunity in less charged atmosphere to discuss and things will be divided, custody structured, visitation implemented  Process may increase emotional acceptance of divorce by 2 parties  May establish atmosphere that helps former spouses establish new working rel that’s essential for co-parenting  Mediation harder if 1 parent is passive, in such families litigation may be necessary cuz mediator cant be advocate for 1 side  In high-conflict divorced may increase strength of association between parental/child problems Child Therapist:  Cant be evaluator eg of kids rel with 1 parent  But can be fact witness [not expert], might testify about 1 parents commitment to is mental health while avoiding any recommendation about custody Court-Appointed Evaluator:  When custody of kid emerges as issue in divorce settlement, judge may ask clinical/counselling psych to serve as CAE o Make eval of/recommendation as to best custody arrangement  In making custody order, must look to best interests of kid o Relevant issues – health/emotional well-being of kid, love affection between parent/kid, kids education, parents capacity to look after, views of kid [typically more as they get older]  Judge makes ultimate determination, but rarely consult psychs  Help judge by giving clinical impression about alliances/conflicts w/in family  Investigation of marital conflict might help in prediction of whether joint custody would work Expert Witness:  After providing eval to court, can be ExW  Sometimes hired by 1 side, not court Applied Researcher:  Provide research findings to guide judges Serving the Needs of 3 Different Types of Clients: The Children:  Help examine feelings about parents/divorce  Make best interests based on objective eval of variety of data The Parents:  In very few cases do the 2 parents contest custody, only few of these cases go to court  So those with whom psych interacts are extreme intense groups  Want vindication, and psych to be on their side not others The Judge:  Seek relevant info about family dynamic The Court-Appointed Evaluator Role: Standards for Resolution of Custody Disputes:  Until early 1900s only 1 person in family had legal rights [husband], kids were treated as property so automatically assigned to fathers The Best Interests of the Child Standard:  1970, placed interests of kid @ forefront  Treated as distinct person, individ rights in child custody proceedings  @ present, neither parent presumed to have superior right to kid  Factors judge may consider in reaching custody decision: o Health/emotional wellbeing of kid [special needs or care/treatment] o Views of child if appropriate o Love/affection/ similar ties that exist between kids and other persons o Education/training for kid o Capacity for each person to whom custody/guardianship may be granted to exercise those rights adequately  BI can t be equated with absence of harm  One of most significant factors will be rel of kid/parents The Tender-Years Doctrine:  Presumes best interest of all young kids regardless of gender and of girls @ any age are best
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