Monterey County Attorney Discusses Child Custody Investigations
In the event that separated parents cannot agree on a custody and visitation schedule with their children, even after going through court assisted mediation, the parties will likely participate in a child custody investigation. Each county in California has different names and different procedures for these investigations. In some counties they may be called Assessments and in others they are called Evaluations. In some counties they are performed through an agency of the court called Family Court Services while in others they are performed by private psychologists hired by the parties.
In any event these custody investigations are a critical part of determining a long-term custody and visitation order. In fact these investigations are so important that a state bill was introduced in 2007 to address an issue that is often raised in these investigations which is a controversial theory called Parental Alienation Syndrome. This theory describes behavior where one parent turns their child against the other parent. Under California law if alienation is proven the alienating parent can lose custody of the child even if they have been the child’s primary caretaker since birth. The custodial parent must support a relationship between the child and the other parent.
The reason that this theory is so controversial is that the psychological community and child custody investigators are split in regards to whether this type of alienation is even possible. Even those who believe it is a legitimate syndrome are concerned about the negative impact on a child when it is incorrectly found in a case. The text of 2007 version of the bill AB 612 would have explicitly banned the use of Parental Alienation Syndrome, or just the term alienation from use in evaluations. It also aimed to minimize the use of custody evaluations. The family law section of the state bar and several psychologists groups banded together to oppose the bill. In the 2008 version of the bill the wording is much vaguer stating evaluators will be forced to conform to “standards generally accepted by the medical, psychiatric, legal, and psychological communities.” The bill does not specifically mention Parental Alienation Syndrome.
If you are concerned about alienation issues in your case or other issues related to a child custody investigation then please contact our office for a free consultation. Our team of Family Law Attorneys can assist you with all aspects of child custody and visitation whether it is part of a divorce action or a paternity matter. We have attorneys in Monterey, Fremont and San Jose who can assist you with all aspects of your family law cases.