Dr. Lowenstein works closely with the forensic community and is frequently called upon for expert testimony in these matters. This includes custody evaluations, parenting capability exams, mental health assessments, NGRI and treatment in lieu of conviction evaluations, and other criminal, domestic, and civil court-related work.
Child Custody/Parent Fitness Evaluations
Child custody and parenting time evaluations, which are used to assist family courts, are usually ordered when issues arise that require the specialized knowledge of a psychologist or other mental health professional. Often, they are ordered to address allegations such as child abuse, sexual abuse, or intimate partner violence as well as concerns about mental disorders, mental illnesses, or substance abuse. These evaluations can also provide courts and judges with information related to co-parenting problems, persistent conflict, parental alienation, and/or when refuse-resist dynamics are present.
In each case, Dr. Lowenstein develops the relevant psycholegal questions that will be the focus of the evaluation, and then designs a method for investigating and answering these questions. Child custody or parenting plan evaluations must address factors prescribed by state statutes and typically focus on the parenting competence of each parent, parent-child relationships, and other issues that impact parenting or the child.
These evaluations involve five methodologies:
Dr. Lowenstein’s comprehensive child custody evaluation reports address the psycholegal questions identified at the beginning of the evaluation, including opinions about the ultimate issues of custody, residency, and parenting time.
Child custody evaluations are among the most complex of all psychological evaluations. They involve individual and comparative analyses of multiple people along dimensions or factors identified by state statute, case-specific issues, relevant scientific research, and case law in order to determine a parenting plan that provides for the current and future well-being and welfare of the child.
Attorneys often engage experts to review the work of other mental health experts, provide assistance with the examination or cross-examination of other expert witnesses and mental health professionals, or develop a case strategy regarding their client’s view of what’s best for their children. There may also be times when additional limited evaluations are needed to support a party’s presentation of their case. Dr. Lowenstein’s training as a psychologist provides him with a unique lens and insights into the processes for which expert assistance is most valuable. Expert consultations can be tailored to the attorney’s needs and the dynamics of the case.
I. Review of the Work Product & Report of a Child Custody or Parenting Time Evaluator
While attorneys are experts at the law and may be excellent at presenting your legal case, they may not be as familiar with some of the psychological concepts and methods used by custody evaluators. Dr. Lowenstein’s knowledge of the expectations of custody/parenting time evaluators can help the attorney identify strengths and weaknesses in these reports that may prove to be invaluable to the development of a case narrative and litigation strategy.
II. Options for Use of Experts after the Work Product Review
*Expert Testimony on the Methodology and Data Analysis in the Evaluator’s Report
If the expert witness case review yields deficiencies in the evaluation report, what happens next becomes very important. The attorney may choose to have the expert reviewer provide testimony. The expert witness can offer testimony during depositions and/or court regarding the deficiencies identified in the review of the evaluation report. In anticipation of this kind of testimony, the expert witness reviewer prepares and submits a report outlining their review procedures and their assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the evaluation report.