Ethical and Professional Considerations in Divorce and Child Custody Cases

Jeffrey Zimmerman*, Allen K. Hess, Nancy A. McGarrah, G. Andrew H. Benjamin, Glenn A. Ally, Jackie K. Gollan, Nancy Kaser-Boyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


The provision of psychological (e.g., psychotherapy, coparenting, mediation, collaborative divorce, child custody evaluation) services for families of divorce are growing specialties for many clinical and forensic psychologists. However, practice in domestic relations psychology, such as divorce and custody assessment and testimony, is a high-risk venture for incurring ethics complaints and law suits. The lead article and the three commentaries that follow enumerate the various roles practitioners might play, clarify how each role requires specific skill sets that may be outside one's particular competence and necessitate additional training, describe how countertransferential issues arise, urge meticulous record keeping, discuss some of the subtleties of confidentiality and the releasing of information, describe how transparency in clarifying expectations leads to a lowering of contentiousness, and provide tips for divorce and forensic practice. The special challenges associated with psychologists being tempted to move beyond their role on a case and those of particularly high-risk situations (e.g., complaints of child abuse or domestic violence) are also discussed. Suggestions are offered to help psychologists better serve the public while taking steps to better inoculate themselves from complaints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-549
Number of pages11
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009


  • child custody
  • divorce
  • ethics
  • forensic evaluations
  • psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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    Zimmerman, J., Hess, A. K., McGarrah, N. A., Benjamin, G. A. H., Ally, G. A., Gollan, J. K., & Kaser-Boyd, N. (2009). Ethical and Professional Considerations in Divorce and Child Custody Cases. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(6), 539-549.