What constitutes a high-quality child custody evaluation? A qualitative analysis

A. T. O’Neill*, K. Bussey, C. J. Lennings, K. M. Seidler

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Eleven highly experienced Australian professionals (psychologists, family lawyers, and judges) were interviewed regarding Single Expert Reports (also known as a Child Custody Evaluation CCE) written by psychologists. A semi-structured interview explored their opinion about the role of and weight afforded to the CCE; the value of psychologists as Single Experts (evaluators), what makes a CCE helpful or unhelpful where there are allegations of mental illness, alienation, family violence and sexual abuse; the inclusion of formal risk assessments in reports; and how psychologists could improve the quality of CCEs. Thematic Analysis was used to capture emergent themes from the data. Four major themes were identified. The first three themes explain what components make for a high-quality report: (1) Thoroughness, (2) Transparency and (3) a Pathway Forward. The fourth theme was informed by the first three themes, in that if the above components were done to a high standard, the overall CCE could be given more weight, and be of greater (4) Assistance to the Court. Findings add depth to previous survey data, confirm the essential components of a CCE that make it helpful in family law proceedings, and provide clarification about how psychologists can improve the quality and consistency of CCEs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-180
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Family Trauma, Child Custody and Child Development
    Issue number2
    Early online date16 Sept 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2022


    • CCEs
    • interviews
    • judges
    • lawyers
    • psychologists
    • quality


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