We specialize in:
- Expert Testimony - Civil and Criminal
- Litigation Support
- Child Custody Evaluations
- Civil Competency Evaluations
- Criminal Competency Evaluations
- Personal Injury Assessments
- Workers Compensation
- Social Security Disability
- Wrongful Discharge
- Post Traumatic Stress Assessments
- Vocational Evaluation / Rehabilitation Potential
- Psychological Evaluations
- Criminal Responsibility Evaluations
- Sexual Offender Assessments
- Malingering / Deception
- Lethal Weapons Testing
- Juvenile Offender Assessments
- Juvenile Decertification Evaluations
In family court, the psychologist has both an ethical and legal obligation to complete evaluations according to the legal standard of what is in the best interests of the children, regardless of the impact on the adults in the case, and irrespective of who engages the psychological expert. Services we provide include:
- Child Custody Evaluation
- Visitation Risk Assessment
- Grandparent Visitation
- Post Divorce Parenting
- Child Abuse/Neglect/Abandonment
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Adoption Readiness Evaluations
- Parent-Child Assessments
- Parenting Style/Competence Evaluation
- Spousal Abuse
Child Custody Evaluations
A child custody evaluation is:
- An assessment and evaluation of your childrenís needs
- An evaluation of each caregiverís ability to meet those needs
- Focused on the "Best Interests" of children
- Designed to help the court reach a decision by gathering and evaluating sufficient information to make recommendations
CIVIL CASES - Pre-Sentencing
Civil Competency Evaluations
Psychologists are able to evaluate a person's cognitive functioning, memory capacity and reasoning ability. These factors are important in determining whether an individual is competent to execute a will, medical directives relating to long term care, or the assignment of a power of attorney or trust account. This may also be a factor in divorce settlements, both in terms of understanding the settlement agreement, and in terms of the person's capacity to take care of themselves after the divorce. It may also affect employability, which can determine distribution of assets following divorce.
For individuals obviously in mental decline, the role of the psychologist is to determine whether it is appropriate to appoint a guardian to manage the person's financial affairs and to make medical decisions regarding long term care.
This process may also be done retroactively, to determine if an individual was competent when their last will was executed. To avoid this more difficult evaluation, it is wise to complete a competency exam prior to executing any important financial papers.
Personal Injury Assessments
Vocational testing, clinical interviews, psychological assessment to document historical and future vocational disability, and reduced household services capability through appropriate work life and life expectancies, in addition to emotional and psychological impact (pain and suffering), proximately caused by such events.
Assess impact of disability as well as assessment for vocational retraining/rehabilitation potential, suspected malingering, psychological overlay, traumatic neurosis, psychic injury.
Social Security Disability
Determination of independence, effectiveness, and appropriateness in activities of daily living. Evaluation of residual functional capacities.
Documentation of the consequences of employment termination and the reasonable probability of acquisition of alternative employment.
Post Traumatic Stress Assessments
Assessment to determine the behavioral and functional manifestations of post-traumatic stress and possible malingering/deception.
Vocational Evaluation / Rehabilitation Potential
Assessment includes tools to measure interest, aptitude, intelligence, and achievement. Additional testing may include rehabilitation potential, job analyses to assure compliance with physical restrictions and job availability.
A standard format for pre-sentencing psychological evaluations at a minimum would include:
- A review of all available evidence of the crime itself including materials obtained through the discovery process.
- Clinical interview reviewing the defendant's psychosocial history, including any past psychological treatment, or past criminal offenses and collateral data.
- Psychological testing to evaluate the presence of psychological disorders, psychopathy, or personality characteristics that may have mediated rational decision making or interfered with judgment or perception.
Results of the evaluation are presented in a comprehensive psychological report, summarizing any relevant findings for the court.
A person charged with a crime who is substantially unable to understand the nature or objective of legal proceedings against them or to participate in or assist counsel in their defense may be considered to be legally incompetent.
Other areas of competency may include waiving Miranda warnings, competency at the time of the offense, competency to be sentenced, and competency to be executed.
For individuals with suspected mental retardation, the Competency Assessment to Stand Trial for the Mentally Retarded (CAST-MR) demonstrates good reliability and validity to address the personís competency.
The MacArthur Competency Assessment Tool regarding criminal adjudication is widely used with persons with suspected incompetence not related to mental retardation.
Criminal Responsibility Evaluations
Determination of mental disease or defect, chemical dependency and its effects, diminished capacity, McNaughton Standard, guilty but mentally ill, organic versus functional disorder, competency to stand trial, waiver of rights.
Psychological evaluations address any mitigating circumstances present that may have affected defendant's judgment, perception or intent in committing offenses.
There are several mitigating factors that relate specifically to psychological assessment.
For example, a psychological disorder may have made the defendant more susceptible to provocation, or may explain, excuse or justify the defendant's behavior which led to commission of the crime. Further, a psychological disorder may affect the person's ability to purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently commit the act. The evaluation may establish that the defendant is unlikely to commit another offense, or is very likely to respond positively to treatment and probation.
A psychological evaluation to assess mitigating circumstances should evaluate the defendant's behavior in terms of any identified psychological factors, clarify how the disorder may have affected the individual's ability to form the mental state necessary at the time of the offense, and indicate how treatment may reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.
Sexual Offender Assessments
Individuals convicted of serious sexual offenses, such as sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, can be evaluated (in PA) by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board to determine whether the individual appears to be a violent sexual predator. The defense may disagree with the determination of this state institution, and request an independent psychological evaluation for a second opinion. A hearing is then held to present expert testimony, so that the court can determine appropriate sentencing for the sexual offender.
For sexual offenses that are not serious enough to require the above evaluation procedure, psychological evaluations are also recommended to present treatment recommendations to the court. Sexual offenses are committed by individuals with a wide array of psychological problems and it is essential to identify the underlying psychological disorder that predisposed the individual to commit a sexual offense. While most, if not all, sexual offenders meet the diagnostic criteria for one or more of the sexual disorders, many offenders also are diagnosed with additional psychological disorders requiring treatment. Mental retardation, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse can all influence an individual's sexual behavior, leading to a sexual offense.
Malingering / Deception
Evaluating a client to identify intentional and conscious fabrication and/or exaggeration of symptoms provides some direction toward potential disposition. Clients can malinger with or without a diagnosed mental disorder. Similarly, identifying minimization and/or conscious denial of symptoms by a client can aid the attorney in adversarial situations involving high stakes for the client.
Juvenile Offender Assessments
Most juvenile offenders exhibit either individual or family psychological/chemical dependency problems, and the thrust of the juvenile justice system is to provide rehabilitation. Psychological evaluation of juvenile offenders can provide valuable information to the court, which can be used in developing the rehabilitation plan that can be incorporated into sentencing or probation requirements. These evaluations may be ordered by the court at the request of wither the prosecution or the defense, or the defense may simply choose to have an evaluation completed and submitted to the court for consideration in sentencing.
Juvenile Decertification Evaluations
Psychologists are essential in decertification hearings. The defense must show that the child is amenable to treatment, supervision or rehabilitation as a juvenile. The defense must also provide a risk assessment. Since probable rehabilitation is a major issue, evidence must first be presented that connects the crime with an identifiable psychological disorder that can be treated. Psychological testimony is important in establishing whether the prognosis for successful treatment is good or not. Determining the length of treatment needed to effect successful rehabilitation is also important, because it must be accomplished by the juvenile's 21st birthday.
The major factors to be evaluated can include:
- Age at the time of the offense
- Mental Capacity
- The degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the child
- Previous records, if any
- The nature and extent of any prior delinquent history, including the success or failure of any previous attempts by the juvenile court to rehabilitate the child
- Whether the child can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court jurisdiction
- Probation or institutional reports, if any
- Any other relevant factors
- AND, Reasonable grounds to believe that the child is not committable to an institution for the mentally retarded or mentally ill
Expert Testimony - Civil and Criminal
Testimony by licensed psychologists and other licensed professionals regarding evaluation services as well as peer review to offer expert opinions in court for all areas described.
Consultations / Litigation Support
Consultation to discuss case merits and to assist with the development of necessary documentation. Consultation and case review to examine opposing expert reports and assist with cross examination.
Resource for some of the descriptive information: www.psychologyinfo.com