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Bias in child custody cases: be aware of the warning signs, P.2

In our last post, we began looking at the issue of bias in child custody disputes. As we pointed out, it is important for parties to child custody cases to be aware of potential warning signs of judicial bias. Fortunately, most judges are conscientious of their obligation to remain neutral in these cases and work to avoid engaging in unfair treatment of parents or condoning such treatment by other parties involved in the process.

One area where bias can sometimes be seen in child custody cases is in the child custody evaluation process. This refers to the aspect of the custody case whereby an evaluator—typically a psychologist—evaluates the family and makes recommendations to the court regarding a custody/visitation plan. 

Child custody evaluation is a critical aspect of the process because judges need to have a solid understanding of the factors bearing upon the best interests of the children. If the evaluator is not objective in his or her assessment, the judge is going to be at a disadvantage in terms of making the best decision for the children.

Theoretically, child custody judges should be able to recognize signs of bias in the custody evaluators they rely on, but this doesn’t always happen. Not only can the children suffer when this happens, but parents may also be unfairly stripped of their parental rights, or limited in their ability to exercise them.

One example of how bias can play out in the child custody evaluation process might be a custody evaluator threatening to recommend removal of custody for a parent who expresses any negative thoughts about the evaluator, the other parent or a guardian. Another example might be exaggerating the bad actions of one parent while minimizing the bad actions of the other.

Next time, we’ll look at a few other examples of bias in the child custody evaluation process and what an attorney can do to address the situation

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Bias in child custody cases: be aware of the warning signs, P.2 | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC