Psychologists are increasingly called upon by the legal system to provide expert opinions during legal proceedings. I have advanced training in various aspects of psycho-legal and forensic psychological assessment, and have submitted reports that were used during legal proceedings in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. While it is possible for individuals and families to request these types of services themselves, psycho-legal evaluations are generally requested by law firms or court ordered by judges during family, criminal, or civil law proceedings.
While each forensic assessment tends to be unique, the process generally includes:
After gathering all the required data, results are integrated and interpreted in order to form a legal opinion that answers the specific questions that were identified at the outset of the process. Reports are written from the perspective of an objective third party, tasked to assist the court in making the most appropriate legal decisions. In addition to providing an opinion on the legal mater at hand, the reports also provide recommendations for managing any specific risk factors that were identified during the process.
Some examples of psycho-legal or forensic psychological assessment services I provide are:
Bilateral Parenting / Custody and Access Assessments
Bilateral parenting assessments represent the most comprehensive type of child custody and access evaluations. The process involves a comprehensive assessment of all adult caregivers, children, and the interactions between them. A range of psychological tests are administered and structured observations of parent-child interactions are scheduled. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide an opinion on both parents’ abilities to meet the needs of each child, as well as an opinion on custody and access schedules that would be in the best interest of the children.
Bilateral parenting assessments typically require around 30 hours of clinical work (including time for data interpretation and report writing). As such, the cost is usually around $9000.
Violence Risk Assessments
There are a number of instances where it may be appropriate to request a formal assessment of violence risk. For instance, the court may seek an opinion on the likelihood of a person re-offending, a probation officer may need guidance on how to manage a high-risk case, or a school board might be concerned about threats of mass violence that were made by a student. Formal psychological violence risk assessments involve a structured process of clinical interviewing, psychological testing, and record reviews to identify factors that are scientifically linked to an increased risk of causing harm. In addition to providing an opinion regarding the likelihood of a violent act occurring, the report will also provide suggestions for managing and reducing the risk for harm. Violence risk assessments can address factors such as general violence, spousal violence, sexual assault, school violence, or stalking.
Violence risk assessments typically require around 10 hours of clinical work (including time for data interpretation and report writing). As such, the cost is usually around $3000.
Voice of the Child Assessments
At times it becomes necessary to provide children with an opportunity to voice their concerns about their living arrangements during child custody and access proceedings. Voice of the Child reports are generally requested when a child appears to possess the necessary emotional maturity to provide an opinion on his or her living arrangements, and such an opinion could possibly be of assistance to the court.
Voice of the Child assessments typically require around 6 hours of clinical work (including time for data interpretation and report writing). As such, Voice of the Child reports typically cost around $1800.
Unilateral Parenting Assessments
In cases where the parenting capacity of one parent is being questioned, a unilateral parenting assessment may be appropriate. These types of evaluations seek to identify whether a parent is able to meet the developmental needs of a specific child. In addition to an evaluation of the parent, the process includes an observation of the parent’s interactions with the child or children in question.
Unilateral Parenting Assessments typically require around 12 hours to complete (including time for data interpretation and report writing). As such, the cost is usually around $3600.
Focused Parenting Assessments
Delimited or focused parenting assessments are often requested when a very specific issue or limited number of issues pertaining to parenting capacity are being questioned. The evaluation will be of limited scope, seeking to only provide opinions on the specific factors that were identified by the court or legal teams requesting the evaluation. As these types of assessments are designed to meet the specific needs of each case, they vary widely in the amount of time required. A cost estimate will be provided once the scope of the assessment had been clarified.
Core Psychological Services