Determining the optimal postdivorce living arrangements for a child is an extremely complex multifaceted problem. Unfortunately, it must be solved under less-than optimal conditions. The effects of separation and divorce on all persons involved are far-reaching and well-documented. To say that divorcing spouses and their children are not at their best would undoubtedly be an understatement. However, for the most part, it is under these conditions that the mental health professional is instructed to make recommendations concerning custody and the best interests of the child which reach far into the future. Obviously, this is no small task. Unfortunately, it seems that the tools currently at the disposal of the mental health professional are often not very helpful. Many of them are old and would appear to have outlived their clinical usefulness. Others simply have not been developed to answer the kinds of questions raised in the context of a custody dispute. As such, the clinician is left with no alternative to doing the best evaluation possible with the tools available. Although it may be said that these clinicians make a valiant effort under entirely adverse conditions, it is not enough. The mental health professional has already assisted the courts in making custody decisions, but if current practice continues, the research would appear to suggest that the help they provide will probably have little to do with reliable and valid assessment methodologies. More importantly, the theory that underlies all traditional procedures has been seriously questioned.
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