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Critique: Hired gun or dispassionate opinion
a child custody and/or access assessment provides recommendations:
That do not make sense in view of the data
Have serious procedural issues or
May have been compromised by assessor bias
an opinion on the reliability and integrity of the assessment report could
you are dissatisfied with a custody/access assessment, an assessment
critique may turn up legitimate reasons to discredit it, providing an
opportunity to reintroduce your position.
value of the assessment critique may weigh heavily on the credibility of
the evaluator and the process of evaluation.
there are no standards by which to critique an assessment, several
professional disciplines do set out minimal standards of practice for
actual custody and access assessments. These various standards of practice
should form the basis of a credible critique as they provide the measure
against which the assessment may in part be weighed. It is important to
note that as each professional discipline has itís own standards of
practice; the evaluator should be familiar with several and report the
standards used as the basis of the evaluation. As well, it can be
important that the evaluator review the assessment against the standard of
practice set out specifically by the assessorís own professional
discipline. Using such standards of practice as the measure improves the
view that the evaluator is objective in the undertaking.
determining that the assessment was conducted in a manner consistent with
standards of practice, the evaluator next considers the data reported with
a view to determining appropriate linkages to stated recommendations. In
other words, the recommendations must make sense in light of the data
reported. Furthermore, the recommendations should be consistent with
recent social science literature concerning matters of attachment, child
development, parental conflict, and other issues like abuse or violence in
its various forms. If the recommendations are not supported by research,
the evaluator can introduce research to support an alternate opinion to
that offered by the assessment. The use of research by the evaluator
improves the view that the alternate opinion offered is dispassionate.
the reputation of the evaluator will figure into the credibility of the
opinion provided. If it can be shown that the evaluator has a history of
always finding fault with assessments, this can play into a perception of
bias on the part of the evaluator and diminish the value of the opinion.
Whatís more, if it can be shown that there were several drafts of the
evaluatorís report and these were transferred between the referral
source and the evaluator, it may be argued that the opinion of the
evaluator was coached, again diminishing the value of the opinion as
is important to distinguish between a solid assessment critique and a case
consultation. If what is requested is a case consultation, than what
transpires between the consultant and the lawyer may remain private and
the consultantís opinion likely wonít be entered at court. The lawyer
may benefit from a private consultation. However, if an assessment
critique is requested and there is a likelihood it will be introduced to
the courts, then the integrity thereof should be as beyond reproach as the
A dispassionate opinion carries greater credibility for court purposes than a hired gun. Donít shoot yourself in the foot!
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 6R5 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org