Questioning the Conventional Perceptions of the Mental Health Professional’s Role in
(1) have any negative effect on any of their children; (2) have any harmful effect on any of
their children; and (3) make life worse for any of their children. Then, the participants were
asked to select whether if, given what they know today, their children would have been
better off if the money spent on the custody evaluation had been spent in another way.
Finally, participants were invited to share any other comments on the effects of custody
evaluations on their children.
The results of Turkat’s survey of parents found that many parents did not believe
the evaluations were in the best interests of their children. Turkat thought the results
showed that a “remarkable number of children experienced negative effects and that lives
were made worse by the recommendations of the custody evaluator.” Of the 101
participants, 65% responded that their children would have been better if the money had
not been spent on custody evaluations. Twenty-three percent reported that the custody
evaluation had negative effects on their children. Nineteen percent answered that the
evaluations caused harmful effects to their children, and 20% felt that the evaluations made
their children’s lives worse.
The voluntary comments left by parents revealed primarily negative revelations.
Sixty-six percent of participants elected to comment further on the effects of the child
custody evaluations on their children. Many of these comments revealed feelings of tension
created in their children. Others described confusion, emotional drain, and unnecessary
trauma. Even comments where parents felt their children did not have negative experiences
questioned the value and necessity of their evaluation. These comments included thoughts
that the custody evaluations only revealed what parents already knew, were a big hassle,
and confused the child. Subjects commented that their children would have been better off
if the money had been spent on clothes, vacations or necessary hygiene products. Overall,
the results showed a majority rejection of the child custody evaluations as occurring in their
children’s best financial and psychological interests.
IV. TURKAT’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE JUDICIARY
After examining the results of his study, Turkat provided advice to the judiciary.
Suggesting reconsideration of their approach to ordering custody evaluations, Turkat asks
courts to “stay focused on the need for strong scientific evidence before authorizing well-
intentioned professionals to perform potentially harmful child custody evaluations or
unwittingly empowering potentially harmful evaluators.” Turkat believes an amount of
diligence is owed to the judiciary on behalf of organizations in the mental health profession,
such as the American Psychological Association, to prove their benefit of the mental health
professional in child custody disputes. Unless proven, as Turkat suggests, families may be
better off without the inclusion of mental health professionals in decisions of child custody.