CUSTODY BATTLE MYTH #6: “The custody evaluation process is designed to protect children and is implemented by professionals acting on the children’s behalf.”

This is one of eight myths voiced by parents David & Laura Sherwood to rationalize their custody battle in #TalktoStrangersFilm, reflecting their misguided belief that they and the court system can protect their children.

Contrary to the assertion by David (02:35)[1], the custody evaluation process is NOT designed to protect children. It is designed to gather information for the court.  In the process, it intrudes upon children’s lives, invades their privacy and increases their anxiety.

And this applies even to mental health professionals. As the psychologist points out to Emily “I’m not your therapist.  I’m merely here to evaluate your family for the court…” (08:58).  Moreover, even where professionals scrupulously avoid putting children to a choice between parents, the children nevertheless find themselves in that very position, as nine-year-old Nicky does in the Court Services waiting room (17:01).  Similarly, twelve-year-old Emily feels trapped when asked if it was her father who created her belief that the custody battle is her mother’s fault (09:34).

David and Laura believe their children will be protected by judges (02:26), professionals (02:35), and through their own efforts (02:23; 20:56).  The truth is that no one can protect children from the intrusions, humiliations and untenable situations inherent in contested custody cases.

Where children may be at risk due to a parent’s mental illness, untreated substance abuse, neglect or abuse, court intervention may well be necessary to protect them.  Otherwise, parents and their counsel have an obligation to try to resolve child-related issues as quickly as possible.

[1] References are to the film time code. The Talk to Strangers professional version includes, besides the film and parents’ guide, a “Quick Reference Index.” That Index is organized around the eight myths of custody litigation, providing time code references to pertinent sections of the film. The DVD version of the film is chaptered to ease navigation during instructional use.

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