Role of Forensic Psychology in Child Custody Cases

09 Apr 2018

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This is an outline of the research that the researcher intends to partake. The research under consideration involves carrying out an analysis on the role of forensic psychology in determining child custody cases. This paper contains the purpose of the study, the introduction of the topic, justification for the topic, new insights of the topic, opportunities for future research, and a conclusion.


The main purpose of this work is to critically analyze the role of forensic psychology in evaluating how the courts should go handle problems of child custody amongst divorcing parents. It is important to understand that during divorce, parents usually fight over the custody of their children. However, in allowing a parent to have custody of a child, the courts have to determine what is good for the child (Clements and Wakeman, 2007). The court can achieve this objective through the help of a forensic psychologist. Based on this fact therefore, this paper will critically look at this concept of forensic psychology, after which it will analyze its role in determining the custody of a child.

Introduction of the topic:

Day (2014) states that child custody evaluations are meant at providing the court with information that would help the court to determine the type of visitation, as well as custody arrangement that is beneficial to the interest of the child. This is particularly so when parents of a child are not able to make a resolution concerning this issue. Pickar (2008) maintains that psychologists have an ethical obligation to recommend what is good for children, irrespective of whoever requests for their evaluation. For example, in a post divorce family, children are always encouraged to have a healthy, positive, and emotional supported relationship with their parents. Furthermore, Young (2008) maintains that it is the responsibility of parents to give a demonstration on their willingness and ability to cooperatively work together as co-parents.

On the other hand, Dutton (2006) defines forensic psychology as an intersection between the justice system, and psychology. This concept involves understanding various fundamental legal principles, especially those that regard the testimony of witnesses, and some specific areas of concern such as the ability of a child to testify, child custody, and visitations. Furthermore, Fridhandler (2008) argues that children will always experience a problem when adjusting to divorce from their parents, and on this basis, forensic psychology can play a great role in determining how the welfare of these children can be undertaken. The main focus of this study is on how psychologists help the courts in evaluating the best method of handling a child custody issue.

Justification for the Topic:

A research in this topic is important because of the high rate of divorce that occurs in the world. For instance, the rates of divorce in the United States stand at 3.4 in every 1000 marriages. This is a high figure when compared to the divorce rates in countries such as Japan, Spain, Denmark and Mongolia, which have a divorce rate of 2.0, 2.4, 2.7, and 0.7 respectively. Bogaerts (2010) explains that due to these high rates of divorce, it is always children who normally suffer. This is mostly because they will lack the attention of one of their parents.

This is a very sensitive issue, mostly because the kids would have to remain under the care of one of their parents. Based on this fact, there is a need of the court to determine who amongst the parents is the most suitable to remain with the children. On this note, the court will have to rely on the expert advice of a forensic psychologist. On this basis, this paper will provide how this crucial role of a psychologist is important in catering for the interests of the child.

New Insights of the Paper:

This paper is an evaluation of previous studies conducted on forensic psychology, and child custody. On this basis, chances are high that the researcher will come up with new information concerning the role of psychologists and child custody. This is through a critical evaluation of a variety of works, belonging to different scholars, and coming up with an independent conclusion, based on the results of the analysis.

Opportunities for future research:

Psychology is an ever expanding field of study. This aspect of forensic psychology has numerous opportunities for future research. Opportunities are high that scholars would start studying on how to use psychology for purposes of stopping or minimizing the growth of divorce in the world (Steel, 2010). In fact, psychological counseling normally takes place before couples are married, but little research exist on how to effectively use psychology to prevent a collapse of the marriage institution. It is important to understand that when marriages are saved, these issues of child custody will not emerge. On this basis, psychologists will manage to cater for the interests of children.


In conclusion, the major purpose of this research is to understand the importance of forensic psychology, in catering for the needs of children during divorce. This paper is motivated on the fact that there are rising instances of divorce in the current century, and hence there is a need of protecting the interests of children in such a set up. This paper will explore the various researches done on the topic, after which the researcher will come up with a conclusion based on the results of the exploration.


Bogaerts, S. (2010). Emerging International Perspectives in Forensic Psychology: Individual Level Analyses. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 10(4), 263-266.

Clements, C. B., & Wakeman, E. E. (2007). Raising the Bar: The Case for Doctoral Training in Forensic Psychology. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 7(2), 53-63.

Day, A. (2014). Competing ethical paradigms in forensic psychiatry and forensic psychology: Commentary for a special section of legal and criminological psychology. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 19(1), 16-18.

Dutton, D. G. (2006). Domestic Abuse Assessment in Child Custody Disputes: Beware the Domestic Violence Research Paradigm. Journal of Child Custody, 2(4), 23-42.

Fridhandler, B. (2008). Science and Child Custody Evaluations: What Qualifies as “Scientific”?. Journal of Child Custody, 5(3-4), 256-275.

Pickar, D. (2008). Countertransference Bias in the Child Custody Evaluator. Journal of Child Custody, 4(3), 45-67.

Steel, J. (2010). Forensic psychology. Research, clinical practice, and applications. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 21(2), 317-319.

Young, S. (2008). Learning Forensic Assessment. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology19(4), 643-644.

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