, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 183-211

The Ethics of the Child Custody Process: Are the American Law Institute’s Guidelines the Answer?

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Our principal ethical concern is that children have greatly differing opportunities to have their developmental needs addressed in the custody process. We illustrate this variation with example cases in five different adult contexts: custodial parent, relocates; natural father disputes an adoption; gay parents break up; “psychological parents” come forward to claim custody or visitation; and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is invoked and may disrupt a placement. We acknowledge and then evaluate in relation to our cases, the recent guidelines for custody issued by the American Law Institute (Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution: Analysis and Recommendations, 2002). Our recommendations for an ethical process include making the child a legal player.

Eleanor Willemsen, Rebecca Andrews and Bethany Karlin are affiliated with Department of Psychology, Santa Clara University. Rebecca Andrews is now at Syracuse University Law School.
Address correspondence to Eleanor Willemsen, Department of Psychology, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053; e-mail: ewillemsen @scu.edu.
This research was supported by a grant from the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education of Santa Clara University. We wish to acknowledge Bree Nakashima for her assistance with our legal research.