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.