Divorce and Custody Work

Parent Coordination

The primary goal of parent coordination is to provide parents with a forum for resolving child-related disputes outside of the courtroom. The duties of a Parent Coordinator include providing parents with problem solving and conflict management services, monitoring compliance with court orders, and providing parents, attorneys, and the court with recommendations for new or modified parenting time provisions, as necessary. This process differs from both therapy and mediation: there is no therapist/client privilege, the process is not confidential, and insurance companies generally do not offer reimbursement for parent coordination as it is not considered a treatment modality. Parent coordination occurs through a court order or consent order. The Parent Coordinator may be tasked to provide binding or non-binding recommendations. In addition, the scope of parent coordination is limited to matters concerning the parties’ child/children. It is expected that both parents will maintain a respectful tone during discussions, make good faith efforts toward cooperation, and prioritize the interests of the child over other competing concerns.  See Dr. Marshall’s informed consent forms for more detailed information pertaining to scope, procedure, lack of confidentiality and fee structure.

Reunification Therapy:

Reunification therapy (also referred to as Reintegration Therapy) is an intervention that is focused on repairing a parent-child relationship that has been disrupted. 

Most commonly the disruption has occurred in the context of parents/guardians in high conflict. Disruption in the parent child relationship can also occur in context of parent incarceration, military deployment, prolonged absence of parent in child’s life for other reasons. 

Goals include fostering increased physical contact while improving the social and emotional relationship between the child/children and estranged parent. 

The following are key distinctions between reunification therapy and traditional psychotherapy services:

  • Reunification therapy occurs through a court order
  • It is not typically considered confidential
  • It is not a reimbursable service covered by an insurance carrier as the focus is not a medical, diagnostic issue, but rather a legal issue
  • If there is a diagnosable mental health diagnosis, it is considered as a factor in the reunification process and referrals to other treatment providers may be necessary

Evaluations in the Context of Divorce and Custody Litigation

The evaluations listed below typically occur through a court order or consent order. The information below is offered as questions commonly arise pertaining to the types of evalutions offered and the scope of such evaluations. Dr. Marshall is available to discuss the specific needs of a party and/or family’s case with the involved attorneys.

Single party Independent Psychological Evaluation

Often referred to Independent Mental Health Evaluation (IME). A Psychological Evaluation of a parent/guardian provides information on that individual’s mental health functioning, such as if they meet criteria for diagnosis of any psychological disorder, and if so how that impacts their daily functioning. Recommendations are offered and inferences can be made by the reader then, such as the judge, as to how this might affect the person’s parenting, but this is not an evaluation of parenting abilities. A Psychological Evaluation includes a detailed clinical interview)s) with the parent, psychological testing of the parent, and contacts with relevant collateral sources and review of relevant records. If abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, or misuse of prescription medication is a concern, the psychological evaluation can include a Substance Abuse Evaluation. Given substance abuse is a DSM-5 mental health disorder, all psychological evaluations should screen for this, but you should be sure to mention substances specifically to your evaluator if they are a concern so they can pay close attention to that area. The evaluation may also include, if necessary, a Violence Risk Assessment as a component of the evaluation if concerns of abuse and violence are relevant to the case. It may be necessary in some cases for a Child Psychological or Child Psycho-Educational Evaluation to be ordered. This occurs most often when parents/legal guardian disagree as to whether a child has a mental health specific condition, and that information is needed to assist in coming to an agreement as to care for the child.

Parental Capacity/Parental Fitness Evaluations:

A Parental Capacity Evaluation includes a clinical interview(s) with the parent, interview(s) with the child if the child is old enough, psychological testing of the parent, parent-child observation(s), and contact with collateral sources and records review. Results provide detailed, in-depth information pertaining to a parent’s psychological functioning, parenting abilities, attitudes and functioning. It is important to note that Parental Capacity Evaluation is not in any way an evaluation of the child, and the child is not the client. The child is involved to add context to assessing parenting abilities by an interview with the child as a first-hand reporter of the parent-child relationship, and by observing the parent with the child. Specific custody and visitation recommendations cannot be provided as the evaluator has not evaluated both parents and the child/children, however, the evaluator can comment on if the parent evaluated appears to be a fit parent. The fitness of both parents can be evaluated in the context of dal parental fitness evaluations by the same evaluator.

Child Custody Evaluations:

A custody evaluation typically includes comprehensive evaluations of all the parties involved in the custody litigation and the minor children.  In custody evaluations, the evaluator will make recommendation to include recommendations pertaining to custody and visitation in the report.

While processes may vary to some extent across evaluators, key aspects of custody evaluations include the following:

  • At least two, perhaps more, interviews with each parent or legal guardian
  • Individual interviews with each involved child
  • Observations of the child with each parent, unless circumstances such as protective orders or findings abuse contraindicate such an observation
  • Interviews with collateral sources and/or review of collateral source documents (e.g. treatment providers, school personnel, primary care physician, day care providers, family) 
  • Administration of psychological test measures and tools if warranted
  • Review of relevant court documents and relevant records.
  • Depending on the case, other specific questions may be raised as a part of the evaluation to include substance use concerns or concerns related to domestic violence as examples
  • Written report (or verbal if requested) with specific recommendations raised pertaining to custody and visitation as well as any other specific concerns identified in the court order or consent order.

The evaluations are not typically considered confidential and are not covered by an insurance carrier as the questions to be address are typical legal in nature.  Dr. Marshall is available to speak with the involved attorneys should such an evaluation be considered for a case.

Dr. Marshall adheres to clinical practice standard and ethical guidelines set forth by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and Specialty Forensic Guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Email Dr. Marshall at JenniferMarshallPhD@mdofficemail.com or call 571-243-7987.
You can also get in touch by filling out the form on the contact page.