The New York Times studies the debate surrounding court-appointed forensic evaluators in custody battles.
Leslie Eaton writes (excerpt):
Underlying all the concerns about forensic evaluators is the question of whether they are offering the court scientific expertise or unsubstantiated opinions.
Jeffrey P. Wittmann, a forensic who has done hundreds of evaluations, says that his colleagues have been giving the courts both, and that they should stick to the scientific evidence. Dr. Wittmann, co-director of the Center for Forensic Psychology in Albany, said he stopped making specific recommendations to judges six years ago, and has urged colleagues to do the same.
The reason, he said, is that forensics do not really know, with any degree of certainty, what is in a child’s best interest. Little scientific research on the subject exists.
Forensics do provide courts with useful information, he said, but drawing conclusions about the child’s best interest and making recommendations on custody and on visiting is inappropriate, even unethical. “We have become like mini-judges,” he added, “and it’s a big mistake.”