Child Custody and Family Law Term Paper

Total Length: 900 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

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Child Custody and Family Law

Considering the rate of divorce in the United States, child custody and family laws are of immense importance and well deserving of scrutiny. As such, this sort of litigation and the processes by which arbitration is made are thoroughly examined within Robert Emery et al.'s "Limited science and a flawed system." This document examines a number of research studies that indicate that there is a considerable degree of dubiousness entrenched within the methodology used to determine child custody in cases of divorce and otherwise. Many of the studies examined within strongly suggest that there are severe circumscriptions in the science used for child custody cases, with the implication being that many such cases are ultimately decided with dangerous amounts of autonomy in a highly arbitrary fashion.

An analysis of the research methods of several different studies proves this point. One of the factors that is routinely utilized in determining child custody is parent alienation, a phenomenon originally documented and defined by Richard Gardner. Parent alienation is the syndrome when one parent attempts to manipulate a child into favoring him or her and disliking the other parent. Although this is an important development in child custody cases, there is virtually no way to scientifically measure such a phenomenon, which makes its inclusion in legal matters highly suspect. Gardner himself does not provide any insight into the process for diagnosing this condition in a 2004 study, and frequently cited occurrences of parent alienation syndrome (PAS) after only conducting interviews with one parent (Emery et al., 2005, p. 10).
Reaching conclusions without examining all of the potential evidence does not facilitate a scientific method, yet PAS is frequently included in decisions regarding which parent a child will live with.

A 1986 study completed by Keilin and Bloom hints at the significance of Gardner's work and its decidedly non-scientific approach. The former study indicates that when psychological evaluators in child custody cases were asked to list the most important factors in their recommendations, parental alienation ranked second overall (Emery et al., 2005, p. 6). The fact that there is no empirical way to determine alienation, let alone the extent of it, is fairly disturbing. What is also significant about this study is that it determined that most evaluators routinely utilize some variation of an intelligence test to assist in their determining of which parent deserves custody. However, the relationship between intelligence and custody, good parenting, etc., is somewhat ambivalent. Other than ascertaining whether or not a parent is not an idiot, it is difficult to ascertain the specific use of an intelligence test to a child custody case, a point which Emery et al. spend a good deal of….....

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