Commentary: Factors Predicting Family Court Decisions in High-Conflict Divorce

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Response or Comment

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Factors that predict custody and visitation decisions are an important area of research, especially in the context of high-conflict divorce. In these cases, youths are at significantly higher risk for exposure to ongoing conflict, violence, and triangulation in their parents' disputes. What variables courts and evaluation clinics use to make custody decisions and whether they are the most salient requires further study. The work by Raub and colleagues in this issue extends our understanding of important factors considered by the courts and custody evaluators in high-conflict divorce and points to directions for future research in this area.

Custody and visitation decisions in the context of high-conflict divorce are areas much in need of research. As Raub and colleagues1 describe in their current study, there is ample evidence that high levels of conflict and aggression between parents before, during, and after divorce have significant impact on the psychological functioning and development of children.2,,4 Examination of factors used by custody evaluators and the courts to make custody and visitation decisions is imperative for understanding what factors are considered and ascertaining whether these factors are the most appropriate. The current paper adds to the literature in important ways by looking at positive communication between parents, a crucial factor that is often ignored. With an increased focus on joint custody and trying to facilitate co-parenting in divorced families, parents' capacities to communicate with one another are crucial. This aspect of the study was a unique contribution. The authors also highlighted gaps in our knowledge and the significant work that is needed to understand whether the factors that evaluators and judges use to make custody determinations are appropriate and are given the correct weight in the decision-making process.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, v. 41, issue 2, p. 219-223