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Psychological Insights In Family Law

By Drs. Linda S. Smith And Eric Frazer

A successful family law practice requires mastery of The Triad of key disciplines: Law, Finance and Psychology. Family lawyers address a variety of family-related disputes and transitions, including divorce, separation of parents, the development of parenting plans, and more. As you can see, all of these legal issues are also psychological and financial issues by nature. Family lawyers currently have instant access to legal research and information through a variety of legal technology solution providers (e.g., Westlaw and LexisNexis). They also have instant access to financial research and information through a variety of financial technology solution providers (e.g., Family Law Software and FinPlan). However, instant, easy access to psychological information, insights, and expertise has been missing. Until now. Historically, family lawyers have accessed psychological information and expertise through psychological experts who are brought in to serve in a variety of professional roles such as custody evaluator, consultant/expert witness, and treatment provider. Although psychological experts can often be helpful in these legal cases, they can only serve the needs of one family at a time. Thus, time and cost are often barriers for attorneys who need psychological resources and guidance. The client bears the same disadvantage. Because there historically hasn’t been easy access to these critical insights, creating a psychological framework for family law cases has not been feasible. Instead, psychological consultation and information is often brought in after significant issues have manifested within the family. The effort tends to be reactive and issue-focused, rather than proactive and strategic.

At the heart of these family law cases are children. There truly is no higher stake. As professionals who practice and serve in the family court system, we must continue to ask ourselves how we can fulfill our professional responsibilities better. How can we be more effective in protecting children and families? In many ways, family lawyers are gatekeepers for these families, just as pediatricians serve as gatekeepers for children. A gatekeeper serves an important role. They are often the first professionals to hear important information about presenting problems, and they must ascertain the proper course of action. If a family law case was properly monitored, tracked, and strategized around psychological key points, what would the end result be? Would the outcomes look different than they currently do? Would they look better? Psychology is everywhere in a family law case. Not one day will go by when a psychological topic or issue is not being spoken about in a family law case. A divorcing client may have a child with ADHD. Allegations of domestic violence may be presented. There may be concerns about excessive drinking in the soon-to-be ex-spouse. How should the family lawyer manage these issues? Is there a way to effectively and efficiently address these issues from the beginning of the case through the end of the case? We believe the answer is definitively yes—by leveraging technology, information, and modern business practices.

Technology can be tremendously helpful in leveraging information and research. This means not just being efficient, but also being effective. Using technology to more easily communicate psychological information and research helps to fill this critical missing space in family law. Child Custody Analytics provides psychological research and expertise to family lawyers. A digital knowledgebase is available to family lawyers. Searchable topics such as psychological testing, substance abuse, interviewing children, domestic violence, mental health issues, and many other relevant psychological topics are included. In addition, customized information requests are available through Concierge services. For example, we recently disseminated Co-Parenting Guidelines for Children with Special Needs to assist attorneys who are working with these cases as parent counsel, arbitrator/mediator, or child’s counsel. A parallel Client Resource Guide is also available. Thus, information can be provided to both the attorney and the client, helping everyone to use this information efficiently and effectively. Being well informed about the psychological issues in your case builds trust with your client and positions you for better case outcomes. Sometimes a small request for information can make a sizable difference in a case.

Technology is changing how all businesses practice. Family law is not immune to its impact. We are moving into an era where everyone is an “expert.” Although technology provides significant benefits at large, one of the disadvantages is that a vast array of information is available online, and this information varies considerably in quality and quantity. Litigants are using online resources to educate themselves. Sometimes this is helpful. Often it is not. Nonetheless, they believe themselves to be experts now, based on the information they find. We have been practicing in this field for almost fifteen years apiece. In the last two years, there has been a rising trend in what we are seeing and hearing from family court litigants. These litigants now come to professionals’ offices armed with psychological research or online resource information as a part of their case presentation. Therefore, if litigants are educating themselves on these issues, the professionals who serve their needs must also remain educated on these issues. Failing to do so could be quite damaging. It could result in an erosion of your control of the case, and it may diminish trust in your relationship with your client. Our belief is that the family law industry is at an important economic and operational crossroads. Technology can be a competitor or a collaborator, but it cannot be ignored.

Hard copy law books have been replaced by online legal research (e.g., Westlaw, LexisNexis). Child Support and Alimony are now calculated with the help of software (e.g., Family Law Software such as FinPlan). Self-represented litigants now have access to a variety of legal support online through disruptive Internet law businesses like Wevorce, Avvo, and Rocket Lawyer. This list seems to be growing weekly. Now, it’s psychology’s turn to depart from the status quo. Efficient, more affordable access to this information needs to be available to family lawyers and effectively used in The Triad of practice services. When psychological insights are used purposefully, it opens new services in the firm’s portfolio of client services along with a commensurate revenue stream.

Child Custody Analytics is the only comprehensive solution for accessing and applying psychological information and expertise for family lawyers to use in their practices. Family lawyers now will have legal, financial, and psychological solutions available to them. We built our site with the objective of elevating the practice of family law so the child and family remain the primary focus for all of our professional work, leading to improved outcomes that children and families deserve.

Drs. Linda S. Smith and Eric Frazer are forensic psychologists and co-founders of Child Custody Analytics, a digital solution provider of psychological research and expertise. For more information, please visit childcustodyanalytics.com. You can also reach them by e-mail at manager@childcustodyanalytics.com or phone at 888-883-4652.


© 2017 Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC. Westwood and Northampton, MA
781.708.4445 | 413.341.1017 | Email: info@levinedisputeresolution.com

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