ALBANY — The New York State Psychological Association announced that they are urging members of the state’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Forensic Custody Evaluations to put the well-being of New York’s children first by adopting the child custody evaluation reforms contained in Assembly bill 2375-B by Assemblyman Dinowitz of the Bronx, and include them in the Commission’s public report to Governor Hochul.

NYSPA strongly supports the reforms contained in Assemblyman Dinowitz’s bill to require court-appointed forensic evaluators, who assess families as part of child custody battles, to be licensed mental health professionals and be mandated to take domestic violence education and training courses.

“Our members firmly believe that protecting the mental health and safety of children who are dragged through custody battles is the main priority,” said NYSPA president Dr. Barbara Kapetanakes. “We appreciate the hard work of those on the Commission and look forward to working with them on their recommendations and working with the Governor and Legislature to strengthen New York’s custody evaluation laws by adopting the reforms included in Assemblyman Dinowitz’s legislation.”

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Forensic Child Custody Evaluations was established in early 2021 and charged with reviewing the state’s forensic custody evaluation process and making recommendations to improve the process as well as the quality, fairness, and transparency of the state’s family court system. NYSPA also provided testimony during the Commission’s September meeting.

In New York State, the family court system relies on psychologists and other mental health professionals to conduct scientific based assessments of family dynamics and other relevant factors, particularly as it relates to the best interests of the child, in order to provide the court with a scientific review of the parties involved in the child custody and visitation court proceedings.

In addition, it is not uncommon for parents who are at odds with one another to express fear that the other parent is a threat. The difficult job of family courts, and the psychologists that support them, is determining when a child is truly at risk for abuse and when the court must intervene.

Dr. Kapetanakes continued, “New York’s family courts deal with hundreds of thousands of cases every year, often working with minimal resources. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t always work, and when that happens, the State needs to do everything possible to fix problems and prevent them from happening again. We are hopeful that the Commission will embrace the reforms contained in the Dinowitz bill as part of their recommendations to Governor Hochul.”

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