A study of families in high-conflict custody disputes: effects of psychiatric evaluation.

V. A. Simons, L. S. Grossman and B. J. Weiner,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 18(1): 85-97, 1990.
Each year approximately 2.5 million people divorce, subjecting more than 1 million children to the losses of familial breakup. Hostility in families can be greatly exacerbated by parents' repeated failures to negotiate an altered lifestyle for the family which provides for the children's best interests. Interventions with highly conflictual parents and their children must necessarily address the interface between the mental health and legal professions. How families experience this process must be carefully studied in order to create new strategies for change, not only within the families, but also to facilitate the legal system's cooperation with mental health professionals. To date, little research has been conducted which assesses the efficacy of methods used by mental health professionals to intervene in contested child custody cases. This paper describes a program at the Isaac Ray Center, Inc., designed to help parents settle their custody disputes out of court. The article presents findings based on an 18-month follow-up questionnaire and court records for 45 parents. Data concerning custody settlement, relitigation, and parents' satisfaction with the evaluation process, their attorneys, and the custody outcome are presented and discussed.