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730 Evaluation: Custody Evaluator Complaint

Does the Board of Psychology handle complaints involving psychologists who perform child custody evaluations?
The Board of Psychology is required to review and to make a determination on every consumer complaint received regardless of the subject matter of the complaint. Child custody cases in the Family Court can be very contentious and volatile. Frequently, at least one of the parties involved in such cases is displeased about the outcome of the court's decision regarding custody of children.

Rule of Court 1257 requires each county in California to establish a grievance process to resolve complaints from involved parties in Family Court cases. Compliance with this rule is not uniform among the courts. This being the case, the dissatisfied parent in a Family Court case often resorts to filing a complaint with the Board of Psychology against the evaluating psychologist. The board has each such complaint reviewed by at least one licensed psychologist who has expertise in Family Court issues. Keep in mind that the Board of Psychology has no authority to change the findings and decision of a Family Court judge regarding custody of children.
What the board can do is to have each complaint against a psychologist who has provided an evaluation in a child custody case reviewed by an expert to determine whether the evaluation was conducted pursuant to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Principles and to the Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings established by the American Psychological Association (APA). These guidelines establish the standard of care for the practice of psychology. Pursuant to the Business and Professions Code Section 2936, the board must apply APA standards as the accepted standard of care in all enforcement policies and disciplinary case evaluations.
Therefore, if a child custody evaluation is determined to have been conducted within this accepted standard of care, the Board of Psychology cannot take administrative action against the psychologist performing the evaluation. If it is determined that an evaluation was performed outside of this standard of care, then the board has the authority to continue with appropriate administrative action. Such action may include an intense educational review with the evaluating psychologist or formal administrative discipline against the psychologist's license depending on how extreme the departure from the standard of care was and on the amount of consumer harm that may have occurred as a result of the departure.
The board's action will have no effect on the findings and decision of the Family Court judge regarding the custody of the children involved in the case.
(See California Board of Psychology: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs))

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