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Forensic (court-involved) Services

This page introduces some of the services that Dr. Garber provides in conjunction with family law matters such as divorce, post-divorce litigation, and child welfare matters. To learn more, please visit www.FamilyLawConsulting.org learn

Most court-related services can only be initiated in conjunction with a current court-order.

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About confidentiality
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What is a Service Agreement?

What is a
                                    co-parenting agenda?
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Court-involved ("forensic") services are paid in full at the time of service or in advance in the form of a retainer that is depleted as services are provided. The details of payment for each particular service are provided in the Service Agreement that Dr. Garber will deliver to you in advance of first meeting.

Court-involved services are not insurance reimbursable.
  • In most instances a relationship (e.g., the co-parents) or a family is identified as the "client" receiving services, rather than a specific individual.
  • Most such services do not yield diagnosis of a DSM or ICD mental illness.
  • The CPT code is typically 00000 or 999999.

Before agreeing to participate in a court-involved professional psychology service, it is important to understand that the conventions of privacy, confidentiality and privilege may be partially or completely suspended.
  • You may be asked or required (or the court may order) that otherwise protected information be shared with Dr. Garber and potentially with others.
  • Records of psychological services, medical treatment, academic achievement, occupational performance, and military or legal matters may be disclosed.
  • The Service Agreement describing the proposed service will explain some of these limits.
  • As an informed consumer and a strong self-advocate, it is important that you seek legal counsel and ask questions in advance so as to assure that you fully understand the process.

Be a strong self-advocate:
If you are participating in a court-related service,
you may not have the familiar protections of privacy
usually associated with psychotherapy.
Be certain to clarify with Dr. Garber, with your lawyer
and/or with the court who will have
access to the service and its results.

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read more here

What is Child-Centered Family (or "custody") Evaluation?

Child-Centered Family Evaluation (CCFE; also known as "Custody Evaluation") is a professional psychological service intended to advise the court how best to understand and serve the cognitive, social, emotional and developmental needs of a child whose caregivers cannot agree on his or her future care.

  • Many jurisdictions recognize that the word "custody" implies ownership. No one owns a child. Thus, the process that has long been known as "Custody Evaluation" is now known as CCFE.

CCFE is a comprehensive information collection and integration process including extensive individual and joint interviews and observations, review of past occupational, academic, medical, psychological and legal records, access to personal references, and interpretation of questionnaire and/or psychological testing data. This process usually results in a very lengthy report that addresses the specific questions posed by the court relevant to the future allocation of parenting rights and responsibilities.

  • CCFE requires a court order.
  • Upon receipt of the court's order, Dr. Garber will request that parties endorse a Service Agreement detailing the proposed service. A sample CCFE Service Agreement is provided at right. Click on the thumbnail image.
  • CCFE is not an insurance-reimbursable service. CCFE is a not a "health-related" service as defined by third party (insurance) carriers. The family (as opposed to a specific individual) is identified as the "client." Typically CCFE does not generate diagnoses.

Dr. Garber's pioneering process-oriented assessment protocol has set a new standard for the efficient and comprehensive conduct of CCFEs. Read about process-oriented assessment in the article attached at left.

read more here

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Co-parenting interventions.

"It takes a village to raise a child"...

but it takes villagers who respect one another
to raise a healthy child.

Parents who can communicate with one another constructively, who can cooperate, and who can work toward establishing consistent parenting practices can raise a healthy child, regardless of gender, generation, geography or the legal status of the adults and their relationship.

Co-parenting interventions are agenda-driven, child-centered mediation services intended to achieve these goals.

  • What is a co-parenting agenda? Read more here Read more here

Co-parenting interventions are not psychotherapy. These services are not about eliciting emotions or repairing the intimate adult relationship. They are instead a business-like process of determining what the child needs and how to assure that those needs are adequately served.

Co-parenting interventions can be critically important for conflicted never-married, divorcing, or divorced caregivers when there is no issue of physical safety.
  • Like most court-related services, Dr. Garber will ask that both parents read, sign and return a Service Agreement as a first step and usually before services can be begun.

Dr. Garber is the author and creator of one specific model of co-parenting intervention known as "Directed Co-parenting Intervention" or DCI. Read more by clicking on the article at right.

Read more here

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What is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting Coordination (PC) is a relatively new form of alternative dispute resolution. The Parenting Coordinator is  a court-appointed, child-centered professional tasked to assist conflicted co-parents to resolve differences and clarify ambiguities within the scope of the parenting plan.

  • Parenting Coordination is an agenda-driven process. Read more about agendas in PC work here Read more here
  • A generic sample PC Service Agreement is provided at right. Click on the thumbnail.

The PC will typically assist co-parents through three steps toward resolution of any given child-centered issue: (1) education, (2) mediation, and as necessary (3) arbitration. The decisions reached in the PC process are binding on the participants unless and until the court rules otherwise. In this regard, the PC process can help co-parents resolve issues more quickly and at less expense and with less stress than by returning to court.
  • The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts has issued standards for PC practice. Read more here read more here
  • Dr. Garber is co-founder and co-president of the Parenting Coordinators Association of New Hampshire (PCANH) Read more

read more here

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  "Reunification" services.
Tragically, some children become polarized: forced to take sides in their parents' conflicts. In response, more and more courts are ordering "reunification" or "reconciliation" interventions intended to help the child (re-)establish a healthy relationship with both parents.

Dr. Garber's forthcoming book,

"Mending Fences: A collaborative, cognitive-behavioral 'reunification' protocol
serving the best interests of the post-divorce, polarized child"
(UnhookedMedia, Spring, 2020)

sets a new standard for understanding and responding to the needs of the polarized child.

In general:

  • "Reunification" services seldom or never succeed when only the child and the "rejected" parent are involved. All parties must be involved, including the "preferred" parent and the parents' respective partners and other children.
  • Sooner is better than later. Like school refusal, the longer the child's resistance persists, the harder it can be to change.
  • When a child prefers one parent and avoids the other in the context of high conflict divorce, questions arise about alienation and abuse. "Reunification" services are not evaluative and may not help to answer these questions. The goal, instead, is to repair the relationships.
  • "Reunification" services are most successful when the court has also appointed a Guardian ad litem or a Parenting Coordinator with the authority to oversee the service and report back to the court.
  • Because the "reunification" process can be stressful on all involved, Dr. Garber commonly recommends that participants have their own individual therapists and supports.
A generic "reunification" Service Agreement is provided at right for your information. Click on the thumbnail to read more.

reda more here

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                  the article here

  Attachment and Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)
Attachment refers to the quality of the child's relationship with a specific caregiver. Children who have experienced a caregiver as sensitive and responsive to their needs over time reliably demonstrate secure attachment behaviors. These are the building blocks of healthy family relationships and positive child development.

When child protective services and the courts question a parent's ability to care for a child's needs or raise the possibility that the parent's rights may be terminated in favor of the child's permanent placement in an alternative environment, an attachment evaluation can be appropriate.
  • Attachment is not "bonding," although the courts often interchange the two two words.
  • An attachment evaluation is neither a child-centered family evaluation (CCFE) nor a parenting capacity evaluation. An attachment evaluation is a study of the quality of a specific caregiver-child relationship, but may not look at or compare the quality of the child's relationship with others.

Dr. Garber has advanced degrees in child development and is a student of attachment theory, studying under Jay Belsky, Ph.D., at The Pennsylvania State University. He has published several peer-reviewed professional papers on the role of attachment theory and methodology in family law matters.

  • Two of Dr. Garber's professional papers on the role of attachment theory and methodology in family law are provided at right. Click on each thumbnail to learn more.

Dr. Garber has pioneered a child custody evaluation methodology based on the "Strange Situation" paradigm associated with attachment theory. Read more at left.

read more here

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 Relocation ("move away")
One of the most contested post-separation and post-divorce matters raised in our family courts is associated with a parent's wish to relocate. The need to balance the parents' needs and ability to support the child and the child's needs to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents challenges the courts and inflames adult conflict.

Evaluating these various needs and advising the court whether and under what conditions relocation might be permitted requires a thorough understanding of child and family development and relevant jurisdictional standards.

CCFE is often the most time- and cost-efficient means of addressing the questions that arise in the context of a proposed relocation. Of special relevance is the value and meaning of the child's transitional objects and of distance media (e.g., Skype, FaceTime, FaceBook, text messaging) when parents live far apart.

Read Dr. Garber's groundbreaking 2019 article about the use of transitional objects in family law at right.

Read more here

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 Grandparents' (and unrelated significant others') caregiving rights.
Jurisdictions are slowly beginning to recognize and allow that loving, able and available caregivers can share rights to a child in addition to -and sometimes instead of- biological parents. This is most commonly seen in the movement to grant grandparents "visitation" or access to the children post-divorce.
  • The state of Maine may be at the forefront of this movement, pioneering legislation that would open the door to allow judges to grant parenting rights and responsibilities to non-relatives read more here
Although the law reasonably discriminates among a child's potential caregivers based on legal and genetic relationships, psychology does not. Serving the "best interests of the child" must include consideration of how other caregivers can participate in serving a child's needs. CCFE is often the best answering this and related questions.

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read more here

The child's voice.
Among the oldest and thorniest issues in family law are questions about if and how children should be heard with regard to their future care. The governing standard in Canada and most of the world beyond the United States is the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child read more here
  • The UNCRC states in part that, “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”

Research in the field across children's ages and jurisdictions converges to conclude that children are more likely to accept and comply with the court's orders if they feel that their voice has been heard during the process. This research leaves open questions including:

  • Who should elicit the child's voice?
  • Should the judge interview the child in chambers? (read this fascinating Canadian case for example Read more here)
  • What should the child be asked? Should the child be asked explicitly about his or her future care?
  • What tools or methods might help to understand the child's presentation? Learn about Dr. Garber's "Query Grid" in the article at top right.

Critical to understanding to child's voice is understanding the many and varied systemic pressures that can corrupt that voice:

  • Has the child been coached, scripted, bribed or threatened?
  • How do incidental factors such as media access and familiarity factor into his or her presentation?
  • How might child's role in the family system be corrupting his or her voice?
  • Has the child been adultified? Parentified? Infantilized? Read more at right.

Finally, jurisdictions that grant greater voice to a child who is considered to be a "mature minor," invite subjective and biased opinions about what that phrase means and how it should be interpreted.

Dr. Garber brings experience and established expertise to case-specific decisions as to whether a specific child should be heard, how and by whom, and how that voice, once elicited, should be weighed in the court's best interests formula.

read more here

read more here

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  Assessing parenting capacity

Parenting capacity refers to an individual's generic awareness of and willingness to provide proper care to a child. This includes a broad sense of how children's abilities change as they develop, the values and deficits of various behavior modification (discipline) techniques, and a realistic sense of one's own limits and needs and how these might affect parenting.

  • A parenting capacity evaluation is distinct from an attachment evaluation. Whereas parenting capacity asks about the adult's caregiving skills, an attachment evaluation asks about the adult's skills as they are suited to the child and the child's experience of the adult's care.
  • A parenting capacity evaluation is also distinct from a child-centered family evaluation (CCFE) in that the latter asks about the quality of the adult's actual care for a specific child as part of the larger constellation of social and emotional variables that make up the changing family system.

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read the forthcoming mnauscript here

  Alienation, estrangement and enmeshment.

Alienation describes a selfish parent's failure to protect a child from unwarranted or exaggerated negatives about the child's other parent. The process can needlessly undermine the security of the child's relationship with the targeted parent, teaching the child that loving one parent is a betrayal of the other.

Alienation (a.k.a., "parental alienation") is real and is tantamount to abuse, but it seldom occurs in a vacuum. It most usually co-occurs with some degree of failure of the boundaries within one parent-child relationship ("enmeshment") and some degree of failed sensitive/responsive care on the part of the other parent ("estrangement.")
  • Alienation is not a syndrome as in "Parental Alienation Syndrome" or PAS. This is much more than a grammatical distinction. Alienation is a systemic dynamic; a destructive modus operandi  that characterizes certain relationships. It is not a condition that exists within an individual worthy of diagnosis.
  • Alienation is not recognized as a syndrome or disorder by DSM or ICD.
  • The construct known as PAS (or its derivative, "Parental Alienation Disorder" or PAD) does not meet Frye or Daubert standards for admissibility.
Dr. Garber's 2020 Family Court Review article, "Sherlock Holmes and the case of resist/refuse dynamics: Confirmatory bias and abductive inference in child custody evaluations" puts resist/refuse dynamics in the context of a larger ecological model of family dynamics. A preprint (manuscript) version is available at left.

Determining if and how the full spectrum of relevant dynamics are affecting a child's relationships requires a skilled, comprehensive, systemically-informed assessment of the entire family. Child-Centered Family Evaluation (CCFE) is precisely that read more

Dr. Garber has worked as a Guardian ad litem, evaluator and has qualified as an expert in several jurisdictions in matters focused on alienation and its co-occurring dynamics, enmeshment and estrangement.
  • Dr. Garber publishes and speaks about alienation, enmeshment and estrangement and the related family system pressures that can corrupt the child's voice and undermine family relationships. Two of these articles are provided at right. Learn more about Dr. Garber's training opportunities here read more here
  • Can alienation, enmeshment and/or estrangement be inferred from a comprehensive record review and without benefit of a family systems evaluation? Yes. Working as expert consultant to the Guardian ad litem or counsel, Dr. Garber can often advise whether available documents may be consistent or inconsistent with the presence of these systemic pressures. Read more at www.FamilyLawConsulting.org read more here

read more here

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caveat lector