Monday, January 12, 2004

Separated Parenting Resources

This is another site extremely relevant to fathers. I had gone back and forth as to whether or not I would mention it, but I decided I would as it can be a resource for everyone. The difference between this site and many of the other father's rights sites is that is does not capitalize on the emotional aspect of these situations. While they do not hide the fact that the content of the site is primarily for fathers, the authors also seem to realize that mothers facing a custody case could gain assistance from the site as well. This could take the shape of either gaining a better understanding of the plight of the divorced father or as a tool to understand what tactics an ex-husband might use in a custody case. While the site clearly was created for fathers it does seem to realize that the father is not always the best choice either and should not be considered as such in a de facto manner.

Of interest, the site has an extremely comprehensive section of links that are generally quite useful and fact based. The Sparc site also includes a search function wherein you can find (usually) credible information on virtually every topic of interest relevant to divorce and custody. There was quite a bit of information that I took out of this site during my research but what comes to mind primarily are the pages about psychological testing in custody evaluations. (Caveat: The authors of this site very obviously have an issue with the types of tests administered in custody evaluations. Whether or not this is justified will have to be determined by you. In my personal experience these tests are neither as daunting or damning as they are portrayed in this site. However, they are expensive, time consuming and potentially an avenue through which a custody evaluator can render a unchecked opinion. All I am saying here is that if the mother's & father's evaluation are virtually identical, potentially (and not that this happens often or even ever) the evaluator could manipulate tests scores in order to support their justification for placement. At this point the parent's only remedy would be to get another evaluator to re-administer the test or have the results independently interpreted. What you run into here is that even with different results from another party, the original evaluator can always fall back on a statement like "in my experience..." or "my training indicates..." making it possible to poke holes in their interpretation but never able to nullify it all together.) To me, this is the scariest part of working with either a psychologist or psychiatrist. The courts give these people tremendous amounts of virtually unchecked power. To my knowledge, no state has a form or even set of issues that an evaluator must go over in their evaluation. Further, independent evaluators do not even have to consider the legal implications that very likely brought the case to the court in the first place. Independent evaluators, in my experience, are able to perform what evaluation they deem appropriate, they can give or omit tests, do home visits or not, talk to the clients 20 times each or 2 times each, basically render whatever evaluation in whatever format they deem fit and then make a like -altering recommendation. After all of this they are effectively insulated from any questions into their merits or methodology by being able to use their "professional opinion" as an escape. I believe if the courts choose to rely so heavily on independent parties there should at the very least be some type of format that must be covered, above and beyond could be at the discretion of the evaluator, but the evaluation in it's entirety should mandate some specifications as to intent and goals.

I'll get off my soap box now. You would not believe the number of horror stories I have heard about custody evaluators. There is no equivalent in the legal system to the custody evaluator in terms of unchecked power. You can appeal a judge's ruling and an appeals courts will decide your appeal in terms of the law and if they agree they will cite specifically the fault of the ruling they have overturned. While you technically can appeal the results of an independent evaluation, the curtain of professional experience shields the evaluator much more effectively. There could be 50 other evaluations with the opposite result but unless you utilize the state appeals process you will never have that evaluation thrown out. Unfortunately, the time table for a state appeal is (generally) quite lengthy, the court will not extend your case for the purposes of filing the appeal, you will usually have to travel to your state capital for the appeal process, and obviously you will be up against the peers of the evaluator in question, so only with a VERY, VERY good case do you even have a shot. And then all of this equates to more time and money spent on an already arduous process.

Anyway, try SPARC if you are looking for just about anything. If you are a mother, expect a lot of the content to be slanted towards fathers, and then take from it what you can. I think I will make today's news posts about custody evaluators, or try anyway.

As always, let me know if you think otherwise about SPARC..

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