ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside October 2005

Custody Disputed

The guidelines judges and psychologists use to decide child custody cases have little basis in science. The system must be rebuilt on better research


Courts are overwhelmed with couples who are splitting up and disputing custody of their children. If parents cannot agree on their children's fates, a judge will decide who gets custody, and increasingly, psychologists are becoming involved as expert evaluators during legal wranglings. But do any of these professionals have proof that the bases for their life-determining decisions are empirically sound? It seems not, and it is the boys and girls who suffer.

Parents often think that judges possess some special wisdom that will allow them to determine a custody arrangement that is somehow better than what parents can devise themselves. They don't. Although the details vary, every state's law indicates that custody decisions are to be made according to the best interests of the child. That rule of thumb sounds laudable, but it is so vague that the outcome of every case is unpredictable. The possibility of winning in court, paired with the emotional dynamics of divorce, encourages parents to enter into custody disputes, which only increases conflict between them--and conflict is a major cause of lasting psychological damage to children of separating spouses.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Holiday Sale

Limited Time Only!

Get 50% off Digital Gifts

Hurry sale ends 12/31 >

X

Email this Article

X