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Judges' Bench Book
Table for Recording Evidence / Facts
Fifty Years of Cognitive Science and Decision-Making
(Olesen Drozd Saini Slabach)
Prudent Therapy in High Conflict Cases
With and Without Allegations of
Intimate Partner Violence or Child Abuse
(2012) Olesen & Drozd
What Causes Child Rejection
or Resistance to a Visit With a Parent?
Some children, especially those in high conflict divorcing families, resist contact with a parent or even reject that parent. This updated Decision Tree guides the reader through the myriad of reasons behind such resistance or rejection. Could it be a part of normal development—an affinity or alignment? Or could the resistance or the rejection be reality based, as in a reaction to abuse—child abuse, substance abuse, and/or intimate partner violence. Could it be because of some kind of parenting problem—alienating behavior, misattunement, intrusive behavior, discipline that is too lax or too rigid, self-centeredness, and/or enmeshment? Perhaps it is a combination of some or all of the above—a hybrid.
Assessment of Allegations of
Intimate Partner Violence (Domestic Violence)
One of the more challenging areas in child custody is the assessment of allegations of intimate partner violence or domestic violence. The chart that follows is a visual representation of how that assessment might be conducted. What are the behavioral dimensions of the abuse. Is it physical, emotional or psychological? Or is a situation in which the issues of relationship control are prevalent. What is the pattern, the frequency and the severity of the abuse? Has it been recent or in the past? Who is the instigator of the abuse—the father? the mother? Or has it been mutual or was the violence defensive or reactive? And most important of all, what are the risk factors in this current situation? Has there been a history of previous violence? substance abuse? a major mental disorder? Was there an early onset of violence or a history of a Conduct Disorder for the aggressor? Has the abusive partner made threats, obsessively followed the victim? And are there weapons in the home? It is standard practice in the domestic violence field to differentiate the kind of abuse since clearly not all abuse comes in the same package. The major kinds that have been written about are Coercive Control (battering), Situation-Specific, Conflict-Instigated, and Separation Associated kinds of Violence. Additional kinds of violence may include Substance Abuse Associated and Major Mental Disorder Associated Violence.
Abuse and Alienation Are Each Real: A Response to a Critique by Joan Meier
This article is in response to an article in this same issue by Joan Meier, "Getting Real About Abuse and Alienation: A Critique of Drozd and Olesen's 2004 Decision Tree." The authors of the 2004 Decision Tree are the authors of this article. In this article, the authors describe some similarities and some differences that they have with the approach that Meier takes with child custody cases that have multiple allegations. The main differences between the approaches are the result of their different perspectives given the populations they see. In the end of her article, Meier describes seven steps for how to deal with what she sees as a primary problem with the Drozd and Olesen 2004 Decision Tree, that is, how to deal with allegations of alienation in a manner that those allegations do not eclipse the abuse allegations.
Navigating Custody & Visitation in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide
While there are rules of evidence to direct judges in determining who qualifies as an expert, practical resources are lacking to help judges critically review the expert testimony of child custody evaluators, determine whether the evaluator's testing methods were accurate and reliable, or tease out the biases of individual clinicians, particularly when domestic violence is involved. This publication is designed to be a practical tool for judges on how to order, interpret, and act upon child custody evaluations and includes bench cards and supplementary materials.
Is It Abuse, Alienation, and/or Estrangement?
Allegations of family violence, child abuse, and alienation often occur in the same contested child custody case. Custody evaluators often are poorly trained in forensic assessment of allegations of domestic violence and allegations of alienation. The authors of this article suggest language that is designed to differentiate between cases in which the term alienation is appropriate, as in non-abuse cases, and when it is best to use other language such as estrangement, sabotaging, and counter productive protective parenting in cases where there is abuse. This article describes a decision tree that is designed to assist evaluators in identifying the causes of multiple allegations of maltreatment and abuse.
Click on the image below to see and download the full chart
Safety First: A Model for Understanding Domestic Violence
in Child Custody and Access Disputes
A substantial percentage of contested child custody cases involve allegations of domestic violence. The impact on the psychological health and physical safety of the child exposed to domestic violence has only recently become a focus of the courts’ and child custody evaluators' attention. Currently, the majority of state statutes include consideration of domestic violence in ‘best interests’ child custody criteria. However, many of the statues do not provide the child custody evaluator the specific criteria to consider, especially if the domestic violence allegations have not been previously reported to authorities prior to the commencement of separation and divorce proceedings. This article presents the first three steps of the six-step Safety First Model, designed to assist the legal and psychological professions to focus on the priorities on the safety of children exposed to domestic violence.