Friday, March 14, 2008

Custody evaluation reform proposed

The Whittier California Daily News reports:
A state bill that would set guidelines for child custody cases has highlighted a nearly 20-year-old dispute over a theory used by psychological evaluators.

The bill, AB 612, which failed to pass into law in 2007, targeted the controversial theory, called Parental Alienation Syndrome. The syndrome describes behavior where one parent turns a child against the other, convincing the child the parent has treated him or her badly, even when they have not.

Dr. Philip Stahl, a California evaluator and member of the state's Association of Family & Conciliation Courts, says evaluators are split in their beliefs about whether children can be alienated.

"You have evaluators who really don't understand alienation, and people who want to apply it in every case," said Stahl. ...

Dr. Amy Baker, a psychiatrist and believer in Parental Alienation Syndrome who wrote a book on the experiences of adult children who claim to have suffered alienation, says the gender issue is overshadowing the problems victims are facing.

"It is unfortunate that women's groups have taken a stance against the issue, because many women have suffered because of the actions of alienators," said Baker, who added that both men and women alienate their children from the other parent.

A 2005 study of 125 high-conflict divorce cases by San Jose State University researcher Janet Johnstone indicated that Baker might be right. The study found that 50 percent of women in the cases showed signs of alienating their children, and 45 percent of men. ...
The current proposal in the California legislature is AB 2587. There is a lot of unsupported opinion in these custody evaluations, and I think that the ought to be tighter laws on what sorts of evidence the shrinks can use.

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