APA Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations

//APA Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations

(Family Law Proceedings)
Herman Gill, Ph.D.
February 2, 2016

When child custody hearings or trials involve litigation, a court’s decision will often rely heavily on a child custody evaluation, psychological evaluation, or other abbreviated evaluation ordered by the court. Often, the attorney for the plaintiff or respondent will make this proposal to the court, assuming it is advantageous to their case. Parents representing themselves pro se may also file these motions by their own authority. When an opposing parent is designated as “non-custodial” or “secondary” parent, based on one or another of these evaluations or proposed parenting plans, that parent may begin an unwanted trajectory of marginalization out of the custody equation.

Parenting plans or custody evaluations change the playing field in child custody determinations. They introduce a forensic expert which modifies the authority of the court as sole decision maker in the case.

Recently published proficiency requirements recommended by the American Psychological Association for parenting plans and child custody evaluations are an attempt to reduce the developmental damage that can be done to children in traditional child custody decision-making. These guidelines, supported by numerous nationally recognized child custody researchers, suggests that use of these APA guidelines which recommend use of functional assessments2,3,4 may mediate a more humane solution to child custody problem.

APA Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings (2015) sets the following mandates concerning proficiency in conducting child custody evaluations:

  1. Generically, unless otherwise specified, it is no longer the default assumption that child custody proceedings will produce the classic paradigm of sole custodian versus visiting parent.
  2. Multiple methods of data gathering enhance the reliability and validity of an evaluator’s conclusions, opinions, and recommendations. Unique as well as overlapping aspects of various measures contribute to a fuller picture of each examinee’s abilities, challenges, and preferences.
  3. Optimally, diverse and accurate methods are used in addressing the questions raised in a specific child custody evaluation.

The Parenting Skills and Competency Inventory (Gill, 2015), provides a fully automated, empirically derived, online assessment and screening inventory which has been used successfully in evidentiary hearings and child custody trials throughout the United States. The PSCI assessment is a scientifically derived test of parent competence introduced in family law proceedings involving child custody decisions. Correlated with other nationally recognized tests, like the Achenbach (2003), the PSCI is in compliance with current scientific standards. For information, contact: www.mindfulchildcustody.com


  1. Meyer, D. (2006). The Constitutional Rights of Non-Custodial Parents.
  2. APA Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings, 2015.
  3. Lamb, M. & Kelly, J. (2009). In R. M. Galazter-Levy, J. Kraus, & J. Galatzer-Levy. (2009). The scientific basis of child custody decisions. (Second edition). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  4. Gill, H. (2015). Parenting Skills and Competencies Inventory (PSCI). In Mindful Child Custody. Amazon Press.


Copyrights: Gill H. (2016). Mindful Child Custody. Amazon Press.