I got rejected by another psychologist.
I called him up, and told him that my ex-wife and I were looking for a child custody evaluator. He asked me a bunch of questions. Eventually he asked why we haven't already found one.
I said that I wasn't sure, but the biggest deal-killers seem to be our lack of lawyers, the extensive previous litigation, the distance, and my blog. He said that he would check out my blog, and get back to me.
He called me back the next day, and said that he did not want the case, and he would only explain it if it were off the record. I promised not to use his name.
He said that child custody evaluations are stressful because they push the limits of what is ethical for psychologists. He would like to stick to psychological issues, but the judges want him to decide legal issues. He has no idea how to preserve the legal rights of the parties, so he really likes to have lawyers to shelter him from those problems. That way, when a parent complains about having to sign an agreement or complains about due process or anything like that, the psychologist can just tell him to talk to his lawyer about it.
Ideally, the psychologist said that he likes to write the evaluation order that the judge signs. The lawyers are often able to arrange that by filing a stipulated request. That way, the psychologist can usually get his recommendations ordered without the parents even seeing his report. When they cannot see his report, they have little ground for complaints. A lot of parents are just unreasonable jerks, he explained, and being forced to follow his recommendation is what is in the best interest of the kids.
The psychologist said that he had never done a case in Santa Cruz county, and after reading my blog, he does not want to start with my case. He said that it took years to build up a good reputation with the Santa Clara courts, and he got that reputation mainly by affirming what the judge had already wanted to do. Only after building up a reputation was he able to occasionally go against some previous court finding.
In my case, he said that it appears that I had really pissed off the judge somehow. Even if my accounts were distorted, there is no way the court's actions could possibly be justified. The psychologist said that twice before he encountered cases where the judge was out to screw someone for some reason. He found it to be a sad and frustrating experience. The judges have so much discretion and authority that they can get away with whatever they want, and the psychologist does not want another case like those. In most cases, he said, the judge does not know what to do and does not care anyway, and those are the cases where a good evaluator can make a positive difference. If I had a case where the judge did not care, then he would be happy to try to start making a reputation in Santa Cruz. But there is no way he is going to plunge into some case that is already a hopeless mess, and where he is not likely to be able to help.
The whole call disgusted me. It seems to me that he should be willing to give his honest opinion, as long as someone is paying him. Curiously, he did not complain about my blog, or tell me to get a lawyer. I got the impression that, from his point of view, he prefers the sort of client who would trust his life to the decisions of lawyers, judges, and shrinks. He was not saying that I ought to do that, but when someone does trust his life to the opinions of others, then the shrink's recommendations are more likely to be accepted.