Written by attorney Peter Christopher Lomtevas

Challenge at trial the methodology failures of the typical custody evaluator.


A Voir Dire of the court appointed custody evaluator's (CACE’s) qualifications to appear on the case starts with a review of his curricular vitae. There is no such academic area as custody valuations, so his curriculum in school may be ordinary clinical practice. “Clinical" means “ill", and divorces and family court cases feature mentally healthy people and their children.

So the typical doctorate may be in substance abuse, depression and so on with no study in families and children. So you examine his training, experience and background in families and children. You look into the number of hours of formal study, the number of books read and the number of practice sessions the CACE conducted to learn about families and children.

The number of custody evaluations performed is a weak indicator of proficiency because no court in any state imposes standards for performance or educational development in report writing and no licensing authority monitors the reports.

Substantive Report:

There are no state or national standards in report preparation, so the typical report is the individual creation of the individual CACE for your case. It may have a table of contents or not. It may include collateral contacts or not. It may include psychological testing or not.

Almost all reports are written with the express intention of coercing a settlement in each case. So, one parent is so bad in a report that his lawyer has the door open to advise the client to surrender and settle away the case. Challenging one of these reports and its CACE is rather easy.

Forensic Notes: Each report has to be based upon careful research, note taking, photos, videos and audio recordings. Otherwise, the report becomes a boat load of hearsay brought in under the cover of a psychological evaluation. The primary area of attack of one of these reports is a review of the underlying data used to create the report. There may be none especially when the CACE has to refer to his “report" instead of referring to his “notes".

Psycho-social history. Almost all reports include a derogatory recitation of the couple’s psycho-social history with heavy emphasis against the losing parent. In an Asian couple’s case, the CACE may write that the male has been programmed by his culture to be abusive and domineering over the female family members (when in fact there is no such cultural programming). Or, that the mother urinates in the bathroom always in the presence of the kid, or that members of the immediate family are psychotic. Typically, these histories are grossly inaccurate and any attack against them will include examination of the details which will unravel the story.

Collateral Contacts. Almost all reports list with whom the CACE had contacts for exchange of information for input into the report. None of these will ever include the parent’s authorization. For example, if the CACE contacts another mental health professional, there will never be a HIPPA release executed by the parents. Further, these contacts almost never happen in person – only over the phone – and there is never a letter or report produced by the collateral contact. The CACE records on a note pad the conversation and can write anything he wants as long as he notes the date and time of the contact. Remember that the CACE is an arm of the court and can have non compliant collateral contacts reported to the court or to their licensing boards for punishment. In this manner, the CACE can interrogate teachers, principals, therapists, physicians and family members. Any challenge to this will include a detailed examination of the “forensic notes" the psychologist took to debunk their contents.

Structure interview: Some reports will include a structured interview. A structured interview is a written listing of questions standardized in their content and repeatedly given to obtain consistent interpretations of answers. Typically, “structured interviews" never take place and merely serve as jargon to lend an air of authenticity and science to otherwise erroneous and fraudulent testimony.

Psychological testing: many of these reports will describe forensic testing. There is no test that will determine custodial fitness, so the psychologist offers a hodge-podge of “sick people" tests to make it look good. A full test includes the questions, the answers and a factor analysis which “grades" the responses and provides a uniform explanation. The typical report will omit one of these so as to mask the inapplicability of the test. Many factor analyses will state that one cannot administer a “sick person" test to a healthy kid, but that analysis will be omitted from the report. The evaluator will even go so far as to fill in lapses by stating that the kid was ‘guarded" lending a sinister air to the results. You get guarded results when you give a healthy kid a test geared for a sick kid.

Interpretive analysis: in most reports, the CACE makes connections between raw data and a conclusion. Rarely if ever will there be principles that glue the raw data and the conclusions together. The evaluator will bridge the gap by saying that he is the genius who made the connection when in fact he lacks even basic training in families and children.

Recommendation: the evaluator leaps to recommend cessation of contact between a parent and a child, or suggests expensive “therapy". Therapy is the process that involves a close union between a therapist and the patient; something not possible when a court orders “therapy". One must have a diagnosed mental condition in order to receive therapy. Otherwise, therapy alone may only serve to lengthen the separation between parent and child in a court case.

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