This review of custody evaluation literature encompasses a number of perspectives gleaned from the following: practitioners who perform the evaluations; the professional organizations that recognize the necessity to establish performance standards for practitioners; and the judges who depend on the findings and recommendations in the evaluations to assist with difficult custody decisions.
General agreement exists among practitioners about the components of a comprehensive evaluation (interviews of adults responsible for child care, interviews of children and their preferences, life histories, observations, psychological testing, document review, and collateral source data), though little consensus exists about the details of performance concerning a given component. For instance, many authors recommend direct parent-child observations, but there is little agreement about observational protocols (Hynan, 2002). Choice of psychological test(s) is largely left to the discretion of the evaluator (Turkat, 2005), though evaluators are urged to choose tests that address issues of parenting capacity (AFCC Standards, 2006; DeWard, 2005). Stark differences of opinion exist concerning the suitability of using several commonly employed tests, including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), Rorschach, and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory - III (MCMI-III). One author believes these tests were designed for other uses and should be excluded from the custody evaluation process (Ericson, 2007), while others assert that these tests are helpful to verify information reported by parents, children, and others in disputed custody cases (Jaffe & Mandeleew, 2008). Parent inventory tests designed for use in custody evaluations, such as the Parent-Child Relationship Inventory (Gerard, 2005) and the Parenting Stress Index (Abidin, 1995), are used more frequently since the inception of the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines (1994) (Quinnell & Bow, 2001).
Barbara A. Babb, Gloria Danziger & Judith D. Moran, Child Custody Evaluations: Review of the Literature and Annotated Bibliography, Maryland Judiciary (2009) (with Weeda, and Mack)