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
Most court-related services
can only be initiated in conjunction with a
("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
Be a strong
If you are participating in a
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.
What is Child-Centered
Family (or "custody") Evaluation?
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
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
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
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.
"It takes a village to raise a
but it takes
villagers who respect one another
to raise a healthy
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
Co-parenting interventions are agenda-driven,
child-centered mediation services intended to
achieve these goals.
What is a co-parenting
agenda? 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
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
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.
What is Parenting
(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
A generic sample PC Service
Agreement is provided at right. Click on the
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
The Association of Family and
Conciliation Courts has issued standards for PC
practice. Read more here
Dr. Garber is co-founder and
co-president of the Parenting Coordinators
Association of New Hampshire (PCANH)
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
Dr. Garber's forthcoming book,
Fences: A collaborative, cognitive-behavioral
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.
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
Sooner is better than later.
Like school refusal, the longer the child's
resistance persists, the harder it can be to
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
"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
Because the "reunification"
process can be stressful on all involved, Dr.
Garber commonly recommends that participants
have their own individual therapists and
A generic "reunification" Service
Agreement is provided at right for your information.
Click on the thumbnail to read more.
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
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
Dr. Garber has pioneered a child
custody evaluation methodology based on the
"Strange Situation" paradigm associated with
attachment theory. Read more at left.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Who should elicit the child's
Should the judge interview the
child in chambers? (read this fascinating Canadian
case for example )
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Alienation, estrangement and
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
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
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
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