Background. Both authors are working on the Board of Ethics of the Czech-Moravian Psychological Society. They face a recurring pattern of complaints, where one parent in the multilateral contractual field of the child custody domain complains about the psychological report in their case, including the psychologist´s procedure, conduct, partiality, etc. The child custody domain is under Civil Law jurisdiction, where psychologists serving as expert witnesses report their evaluations at the request of the court.
Objective. To point out some of societal and professional challenges confronting psychologists as expert witnesses in child custody cases. To improve ethical awareness in this area of psychological expert witness practice.
Design. We compiled an overview of the complaints obtained by the Board of Ethics of the Czech-Moravian Psychological Society from 2013 to 2019, against psychologists who served as expert witnesses in child custody cases in the Czech Republic. We then compared these complaints with the ethical norms established by the Czech Code of Ethics of the Psychological Profession; the recommendations of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) (c.f., The European psychologist in forensic work and as expert witness); and the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) (c.f., Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings).
Results and Сonclusions. Testimony by psychological experts in child custody cases is occurring in the context of societal changes and political decisions concerning child custody arrangements, and the best interests of the child in the context of gender neutral laws. Several ethical concerns seem to be of special importance: 1) the “psychological best interest of the child” in the multilateral contractual field; 2) the purpose and contribution of psychological expert testimony in child custody cases; 3) the role, task, and responsibility of the expert witness, including establishing working alliances and parallel processes; 4) the appropriate allocation of responsibilities in the multilateral contractual field; and 5) the ethics of reflexivity, responsibility, and courage. The “complaint bias” is discussed.
Keywords: psychologist as an expert witness; child custody cases; psychological best interest of the child; ethics of virtues; psychological and personal ethics of reflexivity, responsibility and courage