What Is the Role of a Forensic Investigation in Divorce?

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by | Nov 30, 2022 | Blog, Child Custody

When parents cannot agree on child custody and/or a parenting time schedule, judges are forced to intervene. One of the final efforts to get parents to settle their dispute is for the court to order a forensic investigation. A forensic psychologist or mental health professional is appointed to investigate the family system and environment in which the children live and report back to the judge. This is a serious step that can have an adverse impact on both parents and children. Accordingly, it is usually best for parents to come to an agreement on their own to avoid the burden and cost a forensic investigation presents. If a forensic investigation is ordered, however, contact a New York Divorce lawyer to help you understand a few things you should know:

How Do Courts Handle Child Custody Disputes?

As discussed in a previous post, the court will first attempt to persuade the parties to resolve the dispute on their own and may recommend mediation. If that doesn’t work, the judge will appoint an attorney for the child(ren), who determines how the children feel and may investigate the veracity of the parents’ claims. The attorney’s report can incentivize parents to come to an agreement knowing that the findings may influence the judge in a way that may not be favorable to one or both parents.

If the parents still refuse to settle, the judge may order a forensic investigation. After that step, any remaining disputes will go to trial and the results of the investigation may be considered by the judge in rendering a decision. 

What Does the Forensic Psychologist or Mental Health Professional Do in Custody Disputes?

In a forensic investigation, the judge appoints a psychologist or mental health professional experienced in conducting such evaluations. The professional collects and analyzes information about the parents and family to understand their relationships and problems. Parties will be interviewed, including the parents, children, and any other persons who may have pertinent information, such as relatives, teachers, childcare workers, and family friends. The parents may also be given personality tests. 

This information is then provided to the judge. While the judge has an independent duty to decide custody, the forensic can offer an opinion on what is best for the children if he or she is directed to do so by the court in its order of appointment. As mentioned previously, if the case goes to trial, the psychologist may be called to testify and the report may be admitted into evidence.

How Can a Forensic Investigation Affect Children?

Through much of the divorce, it is possible to keep children out of legal proceedings. However, a forensic investigation necessarily involves the children. The psychologist conducts a more in-depth interview with the child than the attorney for the child will do. This is likely to be confusing and difficult for children especially if they are young. The more they are brought into the divorce, the more likely they will suffer lasting emotional damage. 

What Is the Best Way to Handle Child Custody Disputes?

Parents should always put their children first and in most cases, strive to settle their conflicts quickly and amicably. Importantly, parents must deal with each other for many years, sometimes, even after children are adults. As a result, it is generally best for parents to develop a cordial relationship with each other so children don’t feel as if they have to take sides and can recover from the divorce more effectively.

Contact Us To Speak With New York Divorce Lawyer

Some conflicts cannot be resolved without a judge, so it is important to work with an attorney who will be a strong advocate inside and outside the courtroom and help you achieve a positive outcome for yourself and your children. We seek to find the best solutions for our clients. Please contact us to learn how we can assist you with your divorce.

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