A 730 evaluation usually includes psychological testing. This information, together with interviews and a complete history of the subject are used to describe the personality and characteristics of a person. Testing results should only be part of the picture of a person, the evaluator must not over interpret the data, rather use personal interviews and consistency of all data to formulate a useable prediction of the parent and his or her ability to meet the needs of the child.
One test commonly used is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2). It is a 500 question test; the answers are organized into scales indicating truthfulness, personality characteristics and mental health. Another such test is the Multiaxial Inventory-III, Third Edition (MCMI-III)(2009). These two tests are similar and good rational should be presented to justify using both measures. The Millon is useful in detecting personality disorders. Findings directly correlate to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual used by mental health professionals in describing or diagnosing their clients. There are many other tests that can be used to round out the picture of a person, including the Beck Inventory. This measure determines the degree of depression one might be suffering. Other tests address life style and problem solving methods, flexibility, intellect, bonding and attachment, and even knowledge of children and their developmental stages. Again, all used to determine the best placement for children of divorce.
Testing plays only an important part in a custody evaluation in relation to the subject's current life situation and along with other information gathered during the evaluation. Personal interviews with friends and colleagues also aid in completing the profile of a person. Rules of inference apply and the evaluator must look to where data is consistent before labeling a person based on a test result generated by computer.
Even though testing is a standardized measure, sometimes the interpretations can be subjective. For example, if you cry in the office over your divorce and later, one of the scales on a test indicates that you have histrionic tendencies, you might find yourself labeled as one who cries easily to get others to feel sorry for you, also, that you are melodramatic and self-centered which may be misinterpreted as reasons to discount your concerns about your child's welfare. This may be a situational emotional state and far from your normal way of being. Therefore, before selecting an evaluator, be sure to discuss testing. There can be considerable cost involved in a child custody evaluation so ask about the fees and what those fees include. Be sure the tests selected fit your situation and that other data is included in your evaluation.
Contributing psychologists: Dr. William Lyon, Ph.D., Dr. Kyle Pontious, Ph.D, and Dr. Ira Gomian, Ph.D.
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