Friday, July 06, 2007

Psychological Evaluations in Texas Child Custody Cases

Occasionally, the Texas family law attorney will need to consider the use of psychological testing and assessment in child custody cases.

One of the first things a Texas family law attorney must do in reviewing a psychological test is to consider the credentials of the tester. Although many other persons may involve themselves in assessment type activity (counselors, therapists, gurus), by law the only people who can call what they do "psychological testing" are licensed psychologists and psychiatrists.

There are five primary sources of authority for psychological testing in Texas custody cases. these are:

(1) Ethical Principals of Psychologists and Code of Conduct;

(2) Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing;

(3) Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists;

(4) Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings;

(5) Rights and Responsibilities of Test Takers: Guidelines and Expectations.

A Texas family law attorney should review the extent to which the psychologist followed these sources.

Recently there have been more and more criticisms of the use of psychological testing. Faced with increased use of Daubert challenges, the courts have begun to limit or even bar psychological testimony. Some judges even routinely deny any request for child custody evaluations being done in the first place. However, this Daubert age backlash to the former judicial practice of blindly following the recommendations of mental health professionals pushes the pendulum too far in the other direction. Psychological tests are still completely valid and useful in Texas custody evaluations as long as they are used contextually.