Family Courts to Mandate Whole Child Assessment in High Conflict Divorce
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In many cases, a child of high conflict divorce attends therapy/counseling whereby a thorough assessment is not completed and that therapist/counselor testifies in court or makes recommendations without interviewing each parent. It should be mandated that any therapist/counselor who makes recommendations to the court interview each parent for a minimum of 4 sessions or at least 4 hours unless a parent refuses. The therapist must attempt to contact each parent to determine if the parent wants to attend the therapy sessions.
Without interviewing both parents, an accurate assessment is unlikely since each parent contributes important information concerning the child’s level of functioning. It does happen where one parent presents a negative perception of the other parent which the therapist may then also have a negative perception and thus without interviewing the other parent, an accurate assessment is not determined. The therapist should negate neither the importance of the family from the perspective of the child nor each family member's ability to contribute important information concerning the child's well being.
Concerning information as to changes needed in the family court system from a lawyer in Washington with 40 plus years of experience running for Supreme Court Judge:
I am also very concerned about how decisions are being made by the family courts of this state and the country when it deals with child custody and visitation rights. I don't see that the courts are "pushing off" making decisions but that the decisions they make are not in the best interest of the child. The fact is that the law requires a family court judge to make any decision concerning custody or visitation of a parent with a child "for the best interest of the child." In my legal career I have been directed involved as an advocate for parents where the judges made decisions concerning custody/visitation that I believed were not well reasoned and definitely not "for the best interest of the child." Rather the decision was "for the best interest" of the other parent. Many judges are simply not qualified to make such decisions and from what I have seen are often swayed by their own personal ideas, prejudices, or bias based on their own experience
with children. What most concerns me is the prejudice that most judges believe custody is almost always best with the biological mother, regardless of the mother's skill or abilities to properly care for and raise the child. And father's are often denied either custody or adequate visitation time with the child.
In this state, judges often rely on the opinions of case-workers for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). In my opinion, these government case-workers are not well qualified to make such decisions. They simply do not have the background or training required to make such opinions and are too often overworked and careless in drawing conclusions. What is needed is more qualified and skilled social workers and psychologists from the private sector with strong background and training in evaluating family dynamics and parent-child relations to assist the courts by making independent expert reports to the judges before any judge makes such an important decision on what is "for the best interest of the child." I would support more funding for the courts to hire outside experts to make independent recommendations and reports to the judges and require that judges rely very heavily on those reports in making any ultimate decisions on
custody/visitation. The system is broken because of the use of the second-rate, almost incompetent, recommendations of government employees from the DSHS and judges who make decisions on family matters based on their own personal prejudices. Family court judges should be required to regularly attend a required yearly number of hours of schooling and education taught by experts at colleges or universities in family social work and family psychology. I believe there is some optional schooling and education the judges do receive but it provided by the state DSHS which I believe is not adequately educated and trained in modern family psychology and social dynamics.
In short, I agree significant changes need to be made in the training, education, and skill of family court judges who must make the final decisions on these very important family matters affecting our children.
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