Critics Say State Office’s Inability To Review Psychologists’ Evaluations In Custody Battles Endangers New York Kids

By Charlize Walters, Parent Herald March 13, 09:57 pm

In an era where custody battles and parental alienation are mediocrities of a broken family life, the fact can't be denied that children are often used as bargaining chips or powerful weapons to hurt the other parent. As custody battles become rampant, critics reveal kids are sometimes put at risk when a state office is unable to review custody evaluations of psychologists.

Psychologists who appear in Family and Matrimonial Courts in New York help shape decisions of grave penalties such as in custody, child protection or juvenile delinquency, as per Salon. Unfortunately, their evaluation is subject to little or no professional mistake since the discretion of such proceedings is quite challenging to penetrate even for regulators.

This reality highlighted the scenario in pursuing complaints against court-appointed psychologists with the Office of Professional Discipline (OPD). According to Timothy Tippins, who wrote a New York Law Journal article in 2016 about the inadequate oversight of evaluators, they depend on a "bureaucratic Catch-22 to avoid having to take a hard look at misconduct and take their responsibility of oversight seriously."

The agency in question also provided few answers when asked to explain why it did not investigate complaints against psychologists working in family and matrimonial courts. Salon also pressed OPD for answers and a New York Department of Education division gave a statement saying they are "seeking more authority to gather information in such investigations."

"The State Education Department investigates every complaint that alleges conduct constituting professional misconduct through its Office of Professional Discipline," the statement said. "The Department's ability to investigate court-appointed psychologists can be hampered because the records necessary to pursue such an investigation are, by law, private and open to inspection only upon permission of the Family Court."

Unfortunately, OPD's approach to overseeing psychologists as Family and Matrimonial Court evaluators is one of the "most troubling aspects" of the court system. Lawyer Nancy Erickson said the OPD's refusal shows that incompetent or corrupt psychologists "can continue to make money by doing custody evaluations that could end up misleading the courts and harming children and their families."

Meanwhile, high conflict divorces or acrimonious custody battles can sometimes lead to parental alienation, which is suffered and endured by some parents whose children have been alienated from them by the other parents. According to Huffington Post, this distressing phenomenon has attracted more media attention nowadays and parental alienation is now considered a form of domestic violence.

"Parental alienation involves a set of behaviors that one parent does to damage, destroy, or sever the relationship between their children and the other parent," social psychologist and Colorado State University psychology associate professor Jennifer Harman explained. "Parental alienation is a form of indirect aggression. The true target of this aggression is the other parent, and children are their weapons. Therefore, parental alienation is a form of domestic violence."

In other related reports, due to a bitter custody battle, a Canadian mother recently drugged and burnt her own 9-year-old daughter to death. Telegraph reported mom Laura Coward has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading to the murder of her daughter, Amber Lucius.

At the time of the incident, Coward's divorce from Amber's dad Duane Lucius had just been finalized. Unfortunately, things turned tragic when Duane was awarded the full custody of their daughter.

What are your thoughts on how courts handle high conflict divorces and custody battles? Please feel free to comment below.

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