18 May Methodology in child custody dispute assessment: what is done and what could be improved
Methodology in child custody dispute assessment: what is done and what could be improved
Symposium80Marina Walter-Menzinger, Hôpitaux universitaires Genève HUG, Switzerland; Thomas Demessence, Hôpitaux universitaires Genève HUG, Switzerland; Laure Muller-Tappolet, CURML, Switzerland
Room 2DWed 14:00 - 15:30
Two essential qualities in forensic assessments are: to rely on the most up-to-date scientific knowledge, with the highest possible level of proof and objectivity; to render our reasoning and our methodology in a manner understandable by non-specialists (judges, lawyers, social workers).
In this perspective we have recently focused our work on 3 axes:
1. Relevant scales in the assessment of parental skills and functoining
2. One report, two experts: pros and cons in child custody dispute assessments.
3. The relevance of WHO risk factors of bad tratment in the evlauation of child's needs Presentation 1:Relevant scales in the assessment of parental skills and functioning This abstract will develop the work of child and adolescent psychiatric experts when mandated by a civil court judge to assess a family functioning. Medical doctors and psychologists evaluate families where child custody dispute is central. We have therefore gathered specific scales used in child custody dispute: Parental Evaluation Guide of the Centre Jeunesse de Montreal, adapted from Steinhauer's guide (2006) ; M. Berger’s & E. Izard of C. Malo & D. Rivard proposition of discriminative criteria between high conflictual separation and parental alienation (2013). We have then selected items that were the most relevant for our assessments, and established a grid that standardizes the lead of the investigation and the report. Finally we will discuss the report’s redaction which synthesizes our observations and recommendations in the first interest of the child as required by the 1997 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Presentation 2:One report, two experts: pros and cons in child custody dispute assessments Since 2013, child custody dispute assessments at Geneva University Hospital have been conducted simultaneously by two experts instead of the usual and world-spread habit of single-driven evaluation. This has led to significant improvements in the quality of our work such as cross-checked and shared analyses on clinical statuses, diagnoses and recommendations. It also brought a stark increase in the amount of information collected during parent-child interviews. Without this method, many relevant parent-child interactions are at risk to go unnoticed due to the important flow of information occurring during this type of interviews. The implication of two experts in child custody dispute evaluations has also shown its benefits in parent’s apprehension of the overall procedure. They tend to be less inclined to suspect the experts of partiality towards the other parent, and eases their acceptance of the experts neutral position even when the assessment and the final recommendations don’t give them reason. On the other hand, the main negative aspect of mobilizing two experts on each case is the extra time and resources needed during the process. This includes a greater complexity in global organisation such as scheduling mutual appointments, and implies a precise designation of respective missions and responsibilities for each expert. We have therefore decided to lay down a protocol that seeks the best compromise between the pros and cons of joint assessments. This implies for instance the frequency and nature of single vs joint appointments thru the procedure, the repartition of several tasks like phone calls to the family’s sociomedical network, writing the report, or even attending court audiences. Presentation 2:The relevance of WHO risk factors of bad treatment in the evaluation of child's needs World Health Organization has published a list of risk factors of child’s maltreatment. These factors give a good way of methodically assess what a child lacks and what needs should be fulfilled to improve his/her well-being. It has a strong level of reliability, given its universality and the worldwide evidence-based works that led to its establishment. It allows a clear structure when writing down child’s needs in a forensic assessment. Yet its universality can also be a limitation because it doesn’t take the child’s age into account, neither its cultural background nor the impact of maltreatment on the child. We will therefore see how those risk factors can be best applied to a family assessment according to each specific case, and what other items should be evaluated. Co-author: Maud Guillen Melchiorre