The child custody law in the state of California, as stated under the Family Law section, provides two forms of custody to either or both the parents – legal custody, which may be joint or sole custody and physical custody which again can be joint or sole. Legal custody implies the parent or parents have legal custody of the child and have the right to make decisions about their lives. On the other hand, a physical custody relates to the amount of time the child spends with the parent. In the case of joint physical custody, the parents must have an exactly equal number of hours with each parent. The custody rights are awarded by the court to one or both the parents based on the age, health, emotional ties between parents of the child, parents’ ability to care for the child, history of violence or substance abuse, and child’s social ties (California Courts, 2015).
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This paper assesses the child custody given during divorce proceedings under California law for the eldest of the three children, a white female child, who is socially and emotionally stable. The case shows that the child is well adjusted socially and emotionally due to which she is receiving good grades at school. In order to retain her stability, the presence of both the parents in her life is essential. Forensic evidence suggests that children with greater social stability and academic success require the support and care of both the parents. Bauserman points out “Joint-custody children showed better adjustment in parental relations and spent significant amounts of time with the father, allowing more opportunity for authoritative parenting”. (2002, p. 98) Thus, children with joint custody parents have a greater ability to adjust than in case of single custody (Fabricius, 2003). The important factor that affects a child’s development in a separated family is the quality time spent by a parent and a child (Kelly, 2007).
Applying Ethics in Assessment and Evaluation
Child psychology while awarding custody to parents has assumed paramount impotence as the well-being of the child has assumed precedence in all legal undertakings of the custody law. While awarding custody to a parent, it is most important to understand what is best for the child in question (“Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings”, 2010). While evaluating a child’s state of mind and understanding the adaptability of the child to the new familial situation, a psychologist must garner enough information to gauge the forensic mental health and understand cases related to allegations related to physical or sexual abuse, alienation, substance dependency, violence, etc. (Connell, 2008). However, from the legal point of view many may argue that the psychological best option for the child may not be the best legal option. For instance, a kidnapper may be the best parent of a child but this is not legally permissible (Miller, 2002). In a custodial case, like no other case, the ethical assessment and evaluation may not be followed as emotional factors are often involved in the case of psychiatric evaluation of a child (Miller, 2002). Informed consent in the case of adult clients is possible if one of the parents is representing the child. However, informed consent in the case of a minor client may not be possible.
Bauserman, R. (2002). Child Adjustment in Joint-Custody Versus Sole-Custody Arrangements: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Family Psychology, 16 (1), 91–102.
California Courts. (2015). Basics of Custody & Visitation Orders. Web.
Connell, M. (2008). Changes in the wind: Parenting assessment in family dissolution matters. Journal od Psychiatry and Law, 36, 9-40.
Fabricius, W. V. (2003). Listening to Children of Divorce: New Findings That Diverge From Wallerstein, Lewis, and Blakeslee. Family Relations, 52 (4), 385-396.
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Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings. (2010). American Psychologist, 65 (9), 863–867.
Kelly, J. B. (2007). Children’s living arrangements following separation and divorce: Insights from empirical and clinical research. Family process, 46 (1), 35-52.
Miller, G. H. (2002). The psychological best interest of the child is not the legal best interest. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 30 (2), 196-200.