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Psychological Assessments for Family Proceedings: What Constitutes a Reliable Assessment

Date:5 FEB 2010

DR TRACEY TYLER, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Teesside University, School of Health and Social Care

The British Psychological Society defines an expert as 'a person who, through special training, study and experience, is able to furnish the court, tribunal or oral hearing with scientific or technical information which is likely to be outside the experience and knowledge of a judge, magistrate, convenor or jury'. In the case of the family courts, the purpose of a psychological assessment will be determined by the exact instruction provided. However, in general, it is usually to advise the court as to the capacity a parent has in order to provide good enough parenting to a baby, child or young person. By providing a view from a psychological perspective a reliable assessment should assist the court in thinking about psychological and cognitive aspects of a child and parent's functioning. A psychological assessment, however, that is not reliable is likely to add to the conflict and uncertainty that surrounds family cases and so is damaging to the system and the family. The court therefore needs to be able to read a psychological assessment and conclude that the opinion reached can be relied upon to assist the court in the decision making process.

To read the rest of this article, see March [2010] Family Law journal.

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