How to Spot When Your Custodial Evaluator is Violating His APA Ethical Guidelines
APA Ethical Rules, A?3.07 Third-Party Requests for Services"When psychologists agree to provide services to a person or entity at the request of a [Court] , psychologists attempt to clarify at the outset of the service the nature of the relationship with all individuals or organizations involved. This clarification includes the role of the psychologist (e.g., therapist, consultant, diagnostician, or expert witness), an identification of who is the client, the probable uses of the services provided or the information obtained, and the fact that there may be limits to confidentiality."
This is violated when you are left with little idea what the evaluator will be doing in your case. Typically, no written contract is ever executed and if it is, it is evasive and unclear. Also, you may be misled into thinking the psychologist is there to help. Be assured that he is not.
APA Ethical Rules, A?4.02 Discussing the Limits of Confidentiality"(a) Psychologists discuss with persons ... (1) the relevant limits of confidentiality and (2) the foreseeable uses of the information generated through their psychological activities."
This is violated when the evaluator fails to inform you that anything you say will be used against you in his report to the court. Ideally, during one of these evaluations, you should reveal as little as possible as regards your personal feelings about the case or other subjective, personal statements. Also realize there is no stenographer taking notes so even if you are careful, your words can be twisted and presented in the harshest light.
APA Ethical Rules, A?4.04 Minimizing Intrusions on Privacy"(a) Psychologists include in written and oral reports and consultations, only information germane to the purpose for which the communication is made."
... and ...
"(b) Psychologists discuss confidential information obtained in their work only for appropriate scientific or professional purposes and only with persons clearly concerned with such matters."
This is violated when the evaluator places every manner of hearsay into his report and discusses the matter: with a teacher who said the parent was bad; or with a previous therapist who said he thought the parent was crazy.
APA Ethical Rules, A?10.02 Therapy Involving Couples or Families"(a) When psychologists agree to provide services ... to spouses ..., they take reasonable steps to clarify at the outset (1) which of the individuals are clients/patients and (2) the relationship the psychologist will have with each person."
This is violated again by the failure to explain the limits of confidentiality and then siding with one spouse to the detriment of the other. Some evaluators will outright lie to the Court. These situations require careful review of what is taking place behind the evaluation. Also, in the most perverted cases, the evaluator will not even write a "report". He'll merely send letters to the court. This is an ex parte communication which will earn both the judge and the psychologist sanctions by their respective governing bodies.
APA Ethical Rules, A?3.04 Avoiding HarmYour evaluator "must take reasonable steps to avoid harming his clients/patients, with whom he works, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and unavoidable".
This is violated when the evaluator fabricates false allegations: such as the parent "threatened to kill me," or "the parent threatened to kill the entire family". In more subtle situations, the fabrication will be mild or nonsensical. Here the goal is to funnel the parent into the evaluator's "parenting" service. If the parent is a licensed professional, the evaluator cannot manipulate the parent by threats of reports to that parent's licensing bodies.
APA Ethical Rules, A?3.05 Multiple Relationships"(a) A multiple relationship occurs when a psychologist is in a professional role with a person and (1) at the same time is in another role with the same person, (2) at the same time is in a relationship with a person closely associated with or related to the person with whom the psychologist has the professional relationship, or (3) promises to enter into another relationship in the future with the person or a person closely associated with or related to the person."
This is the big one. Typically, the evaluator will pick the custodial parent, provide expert witness testimony as to the deficient parent's problems, offer to treat the deficient parent until he is healthy again and will offer to write reports to the court. Each of these steps when performed in combination with one other by the same psychologist violates the rule that allows a psychologist to only play one role in litigation. Any bifurcation requires a second or third psychologist.
APA Ethical Rules, A?3.06 Conflict of Interest"Psychologists refrain from taking on a professional role when personal, scientific, professional, legal, financial, or other interests or relationships could reasonably be expected to (1) impair their objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing their functions as psychologists or (2) expose the person or organization with whom the professional relationship exists to harm or exploitation."
This is the second big one. When a psychologist refers deficient parents to his organization's fellow psychologists for "treatment", his professional objectivity becomes impaired because he now is writing reports to generate more business among his group. This also fails to provide necessary "peer review" for the evaluator's work. He cannot rely on a fellow business associate (or business acquaintance) to verify his derogatory report about a parent.
APA Ethical Rules, A?3.09 Cooperation With Other Professionals"When indicated and professionally appropriate, psychologists cooperate with other professionals in order to serve their clients/patients effectively and appropriately."
This is a third big one. Here, the evaluator is prohibited from "ratting out" uncooperative professionals (therapists who refuse to assist in the evaluation) and reporting them to the court. Instead, he owes an affirmative duty to cooperate with these outsiders in order to prepare a thorough and accurate evaluation. A judge cannot report errant professionals to licensing bodies because a judge cannot become a witness and cannot participate in circumstances which appear to be furthering a personal business interest (the money making capacity of the evaluator).
Do SomethingIf you find you are being misrepresented by the custodial evaluator, notify your local office of court administration. Also, the national ethics board takes complaints. Do not allow groundless hearsay to enter as evidence in your case. Seek out a rebuttal psychologist and have that psychologist appear in your case. Your children depend upon you to be there for them. Hire a competent attorney who is versed in expert witness management.