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Getting the Best from Psychologists in Custody and Access Cases

NZ $15.00
Author(s): Lynda Kearns, Dr Louise Smith
Published: 8 March, 1999
Pages: 50



As lawyers practicing in the Family Court, we have all encountered the difficult situation where a psychological report is received and is adverse to the client we are representing. Clients in such situations have a tendency to despair, believing that since the “expert” has found against them, they might as well “give up” and not pursue their case any further.

It cannot be disputed that a psychological report is a persuasive and powerful document in a custody case. The psychologist is independent and can properly be regarded as an expert. Similarly, the psychologist will usually be the only person to have interviewed all parties, obtained an extensive data base and have the necessary expertise and skills to interview and assess the children.

It is important to remember, however, that a psychological report is only one piece of the jigsaw. The report should be properly challenged and assessed along with all other evidence so that the ultimate decision can then be made solely by the judge.

What steps should you take when the psychological report is against your client? How confident are you in properly assessing and then challenging such reports? Can you cross-examine a psychologist competently? When should you seek a critique?

The purpose of this seminar is to provide a practical guideline for lawyers working with psychological reports in custody cases. Current practice and relevant legal principles as established by case law will be detailed. With Dr Smith’s assistance the mysteries of the report itself will be unravelled and in the process we hope to provide you with a structure and basis to assist you in challenging psychological reports in court.


Content outline

  • Current law
    • Duty of care
    • Methodology
    • Disclosure of reports
    • Process of critiquing
    • Other reading
  • Preparation of the psychological report
    • Procedure for completing a psychological report
    • Report writers, their training and orientation
    • Some helpful thoughts for working with psychologists
  • Collecting the data
    • Interviewing children
    • Interviewing parents
    • Behavioural observations
    • Standardised testing
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