If you are looking for clinicians to help in your legal cases
you ought to find clinicians who are specially trained and experienced in legal
work. These clinicians can be found in
the Kid Catch directory by searching under the term “Forensics.”
Parents and attorneys
ought to be warned that many clinicians do not want to be involved in legal
cases. When you are looking for
clinicians to help in your legal cases you need to disclose that up front. Waiting to tell clinicians about your legal
cases after your children are already involved with clinicians is disrespectful
towards the clinicians and can backfire.
When clinicians are subpoenaed to appear in court for cases they do not want
to be involved with, this is not likely to help your case.
How Does Legal Work Differ from Clinical Work?
The forensic evaluation of children and adolescents varies
from a clinical assessment in several ways. One of the main differences is that
the forensic evaluator’s duty is to the person, court or agency requesting the
evaluation, rather than to the child or adolescent being evaluated. The purpose of the evaluation is to resolve a
legal dispute, not to render treatment. Thus, there is no therapeutic
relationship established with the individual being evaluated in a forensic
assessment. Forensic evaluations may be
conducted by child mental health professionals across several disciplines, such
as Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), psychologists (PhD), and psychiatrists (MD).
Common Types of Child Forensic Evaluations
Child Custody- If parents are unable to agree on a
co-parenting plan, a child custody evaluation assists the court on making
decisions regarding custody, visitation and parenting time arrangements. The
evaluator should have an understanding of family relationships, interpersonal
dynamics, developmental issues, and should be familiar with family law in the
local jurisdiction. The purpose of the child custody evaluation is to determine
what is in the best interests of the children. This is defined as the rendering of
decisions to fulfill the basic and developmental needs of the children.
Child Maltreatment- In cases of abuse and neglect, the mental
health evaluators often work in collaboration with a team to best assist the
court in determining what happened to children, make recommendations regarding
placement or treatment, or offering an opinion on termination of parental
Personal Injury- In cases of personal injury lawsuits, the
forensic evaluator’s role is not to assess liability, but to assess for damages children may have suffered. This involves having knowledge about how an injury
may have short and long-term consequences, if children are suffering from mental
disorders, and if the alleged injury or incident contributed to the current
condition. In addition, the evaluator assesses the mental health and
development of children prior to the injuries, and may give an opinion of the
children’s treatment needs and prognosis.
Juvenile Justice- Juvenile courts are focused on
rehabilitation rather than punishment, and helping the children and adolescents
in its system. A forensic evaluator may be needed to consult regarding
competency to understand Miranda rights and to stand trial, evaluation for a
waiver or transfer hearings, and evaluations for whether children should remain
in a facility or can return home while awaiting adjudication. Forensic
evaluators should consider children’s treatment needs and the need for a
restrictive setting that protects both the youths and the community.
Overview of the Differences between Forensic and Clinical
Purpose- The purpose of a forensic evaluation is to answer a
legal question, whereas the purpose of a clinical evaluation is to make a
diagnosis and treatment plan with the intent of relieving suffering.
Relationship- In a clinical evaluation there is a
doctor-patient relationship that is entered into which is not present in
Client- In a forensic evaluation the client is the court,
attorney or retaining agency, while in a clinical assessment the client is the
Agency- The forensic evaluator has a fiduciary duty to the
retaining agency, while the clinical evaluator has a fiduciary duty to the
patient’s best interests.
Objective- Forensic evaluations produce a report or
testimony, whereas clinical assessments help heal the patient.
Privacy- Confidentiality applies in clinical cases, but not
in forensic cases. The forensic evaluator must clarify this at the start of the
Process- The goal of a forensic evaluation is to conduct an
objective evaluation, while the goal of a clinical assessment is to establish a
diagnosis and treatment plan.
Treatment- Treatment may be recommended, but is not rendered
during forensic evaluations while treatment is an essential part of a clinical
Bias- The forensic evaluator should not have an investment
in the outcome of their assessment, whereas there is often a therapeutic bias
and the desire for a patient to get better during clinical encounters.
This page was last edited September 11, 2019.