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Divorce Lawyer. New York child custody, Manhattan child custody, Brooklyn child custody Lawyer.
Divorce Lawyer. New York child custody, Manhattan child custody, Brooklyn child custody Lawyer.

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Forensic Psychological Evaluations In New York Custody Cases
September 18, 2020


Often psychological testing and interviews become part of a child custody case in Manhattan. So, it is especially important to familiarize yourself with this process.

The psychological testing is usually referred to as a mental health evaluation or an independent forensic psychological or psychiatric  evaluation.

The forensic evaluation includes more than testing.  The attorneys in your custody case will ask the judge to appoint a forensic psychological evaluator for your case and often the judge will allow you to have input as to who will be performing the evaluation. Some judges even request the attorneys to suggest areas of inquiry for the forensic evaluate her to explore. The forensic evaluation entails interviews of the parties, Interviews of the children, interviews of each child with each parent, and interviews with collateral persons who have knowledge about the parties parenting abilities. After the interviews are conducted the psychologist will explore the psychological status of the parties through testing. This is especially true we are there are allegations of mental illness. Some of the tests include the MMPI test, which looks for psychological disorders, the MCMM 1-3 which consists of true and false questions that are designed to identify personality disorders in individuals.


Another test involved might be the TAT Test which the evaluator will use to try to detect a party’s personality. There are several other tests, but the most interesting test is the BPS, or Bricklin Perceptual Scales test, which is designed to find out what the children think about their parents.

The testing might also include IQ testing of the parents.  The American Psychological Association has come up with a protocol we are by there is some scientific reliability to these reports and tests.

In fact, there is a protocol for testing and many of the forensic experts use the same tests.


Forensic  testing is quite common in child custody cases where the child is at high risk or where there are drug or alcohol issues or mental health issues involving the parties or children.  Forensic evaluations are also common if the Court needs some guidance as to scientific issues for which they might lack an expertise.


However, in recent years many of these tests have been met with conflict and consternation by the Bar and by other psychologists and  scientists


. After the testing is completed the forensic evaluator will prepare a report as to the fitness of the parents. It used to be that the court would ask the forensic evaluator for a written recommendation as to which party should get custody, but this methodology has been discredited and now the purpose of the reports is to better inform the court of the psychological issues involving the parties so that it can’t make up its mind at trial as to who gets custody of the children.


In a Manhattan divorce case, or in any New York divorce case where child custody is that issue, a   forensic evaluator will be appointed if the parties feel it is necessary and the court feels it is necessary

Usually, this forensic evaluation only occurs if one or the other of the parties requests that it be done.

In preparation of the interviews of the forensic psychologist, bear in mind that you should be truthful with respect to all allegations made against your spouse. It is also important to focus on the good points of your spouse as well as the bad points, because it bolsters your credibility with the court and shows that you are not apt to not encourage a good relationship between the children and the non-custodial spouse. It is also important not to get angry during the evaluation because you are being judged by your demeanor. 

The evaluate may ask you to bring in certain documents and it is best to comply with all requests. If the parties make over a certain amount of money they will be expected to pay for the forensic evaluator. Usually, the court will make each party pay the forensic fee prorated to their income.



If it all possible, it is desirable that there be no psychological evaluation if there are no serious mental health issues because you will be putting your child through multiple interviews. However, each case is different and some cases really require that the evaluation a car to get to the bottom of your preparing for your interviews with the forensic psychologist, work with your attorney to familiarize yourself with the kind of questions that you will be required to ask. As I stated before, try not to be negative about your spouse but if you must be negative do so in a calm manner. Make sure you arrive at the appointed hour, and bring all the documents necessary that have been requested by the evaluator.

At trial, should there be a trial, the forensic evaluator will likely be called as a witness so that the report can be admitted into evidence. During that time all attorneys are allowed to question the forensic evaluator and confront the evaluator as to certain findings the evaluator made.

It is the forensic report is not favorable to you, your attorney can ask questions and ask for clarification as to how the forensic expert arrived at his scientific opinion. Your attorney can ask hypothetical questions that in formed the forensic expert that he might not know all the facts and that if he did know all the facts his opinion might be different. Do not treat the forensic evaluation lightly. Historically, courts put a lot of emphasis on the forensic evaluation report. However, it is Judicial air to depend solely on the psychological evaluation. The test for a judge to determine custody is to consider all the evidence that he must weigh in deciding the best interest of the child. This would include all the testimony, all the physical evidence and exhibits, and will give some weight to the opinion of the attorney for the child.

If you are contemplating having a forensic evaluation in your case, or if you are looking for a divorce lawyer in Manhattan or custody lawyer in Manhattan and you wish to learn more, feel free to contact us at Or call 212-786-0901.  Thank you.

By: Lisa Beth older

Your Manhattan custody lawyer in Manhattan divorce lawyer