When investigating child custody cases, we look for consistent deviant behaviors over time, psychological pathologies that are not in the best interest of the child, and seek out all relevant family dynamics. Family dynamics are
behavioral interactions, both positive and negative, between adults and children within a family unit. The adult or parent in the family unit is responsible for providing for the care, custody and control of the minor child’s. The adult also has a duty to assure that the child’s personal safety and psychological well-being are provided for. This is often referred to as the “best interest of the child”. Deviant behaviors are those behaviors that can negatively impact a child’s well-being both physically and psychologically. (Hillaker, F.L., Delta College, 93-01)
The child Custody Act is legislation that specifically addresses the issue of the “well being of the child”. In order to pursue child custody, a parent needs legal and jurisdictional standing. There also has to be a “significant change in circumstance” with in the family dynamic, prior to filing a legal motion, on the child’s behalf. To file the legal motion, the parent requires “Legal Standing” to file an action [motion]. Or a legal reason why you are pursing a legal action against a party. The legal standard for the best interest of the child includes considering all the parents’ and child’s wishes and living circumstances that have an impact on the child’s well-being. “The burden of proof in pre court child custody cases, is preponderance of evidence. The burden of proof in post child custody cases, is clear and convincing evidence.” (Botkins, R., MI., FOC, 05) Therefore, your evidence has to be substantial and not erroneous. Many states define the best interest of the child by statute. (Boland, Mary L., 04) It would be prudent to review the jurisdictional statutes and standards in your state when applicable.
A good Child Custody Law Standard is: [US] Federal Uniform Child Custody Act, UCCJA (Uniform Child Custody Act) or in Michigan, UCCJ / MCLA 600.51 – 573 (75). When child custody is disputed, the Judge or Family Court [Referee] applies “The Best Interest of the Child” standard.
The Law of Child Custody
Statutory Child Custody factors that can influence and investigations:
- … the wishes of the child as to their custodian
- … the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent
- … siblings and any other significant person in the child’s life
- … the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- … the mental and physical health of all parties
- … threats of violence against the child, or witnessed by the child
- … the ability of the parents to cooperate regarding decision making on the child’s behalf, and the residential circumstance of the parents
- … age, and religious considerations of the parties
- … cohabitation or life styles issues
Parental Care of the Child Factors Questions:
- … who spends more hours per day with the child?
- … who cooks the meals?
- If it is a young child, who bathes the child?
- … who stays home from work when the child is sick?
- … who takes responsibility for involvement in school and who helps to complete homework assignments?
- … who goes to school conferences?
- … who attends school events?
- … how does the child get to and from school events?
- … who takes responsibility for involvement in after-school activities?
- … who is responsible for the child’s religious education?
- … who makes doctor and dentist appointments and takes the child to these appointments?
- … who is responsible for setting up and maintaining child care arrangements?
Security and Domestic Violence Factors Questions:
- … who can provide a safe environment?
- … has there been any verbal abuse?
- … has there been any psychological abuse?
- … does the parent have a substance abuse problem?
- … has the parent been arrested or convicted of a crime? (if so detail)
- … have there been incidences of violence in the home? Were the police called?
- … are there any threats of kidnapping?
- … has a parent ever failed to produce their child for visitation?
- … has a parent ever failed to appear for visitation, if so was any one notified?
- … has a parent ever failed to return the child after visitation?
(Boland, M. L.04 and Watnik W., 03)
Other factors that may influence a child custody investigation include, but are not limited to: moral fitness, mental and physical health, environment, cooperation, location of the child’s home, religion and the most important interaction, love and affection between the child(ren) and the parents. (Boland, M.L., 2004)
The Investigative Purpose of a Child Custody Investigation
The primary investigative purpose of a child custody investigation is to establish the best interest of the child, which includes identifying consistent deviant behaviors over time, investigationally. The investigation should focus on parenting capacity, the needs of the child, and the resulting fitness of each parent. The parent should exhibit positive interactions with their children and the ability to plan for the child’s future needs, capacity to provide a stable and loving environment. The parent should be able to identify the potential for inappropriate behavior or misconduct to be exhibited in and around the child. Parents who are exercising care, custody and control of the child should be free of consistent deviant behaviors over time that may cause harm to the child.
Consistent Deviant Behaviors in a Child Custody Investigation
The main investigative questions that arise: “Is the parent demonstrating deviant behavior(s) [and] is the parent not acting in the best interest of the child [or] is the parent behaving within socially acceptable norm behavior”[?] Identified Consistent Deviant Behaviors include: substance abuse, allowing potentially violent persons to be in and around the child(ren), poor choice [decision] making by the custodial parent, driving while intoxicated or allowing some one to drive the minor child while intoxicated, lying under oath or in a legal proceeding in regards to the child’s well-being. Consistency arrives behaviorally in the investigation when deviant behaviors are being repeated indicating a lack of morality, which is not in the best interest of the child. Responsibility and leadership by the parent towards the minor children should be displayed.
Behavioral Witness List
Within the child custody investigation, many witnesses may be identified. A witness list should include the correct spelling of the witnesses’ full legal name, including middle name. Aliases [AKA’s] should also be included if known. A date of birth, current address, telephone number, cell phone number, email and or any other means to remain in contact with the witness should also be included. A short narrative should be at the end of the identifying information to explain how each witness is involved in the case, and relevant issues involving the witness.
A witness list can change day to day, hour to hour. When does the client or attorney want the investigation completed? When is the next court date? When will I need to testify? These questions need to be addressed when compiling your witness list. It is mandatory to cite when the witness list was written and or revised. In that way the client, attorney and investigator are all working from the most current witness list when conducting an investigation or investigative case review.
Behavioral Chronologies and Time Lines
Within the child custody investigation, deviant behaviors may be numerous and repeating. There should be a behavioral theory as to why the parent’s behaviors are deviant and repeating and engaging in consistent deviant behaviors over time. Your investigative focus should be the consistent deviant behaviors over time and the Child Custody Act, and how those deviant behaviors interact behaviorally with physical evidence that is admissible in court. The investigator can testify as to how the behavioral chronology was written, which salient events occurred, and what professional standards they followed.
Consistency of Deviant Behaviors can be demonstrated in a chronological order, and should be quoted and properly cited by naming your source when quoting. Showing a pervasive pattern of deviant behavior that is contrary to the best interest of the child will positively influence the court. Liability will be limited providing the quotes were verbatim and properly cited.
Your chronology should have date, time, identify type of physical evidence such as: video-tape(s), police report(s), recorded statement(s), testimony, etc.. Evidence in a child custody matter could be almost anything, as long as it is relevant to consistent deviant behaviors over time and the attorney wants to present it in court. The chronology should indicate what the evidence is, and the references should be quoted verbatim because you are not the witness. Your source should be cited under American Psychological Associations recommendations for citing.
To avoid hearsay problems, a true copy of the governmental record has to be exhibited or the author has to be sitting in the courtroom prepared to testify. Examples of evidence that may be introduced in behavioral chronology are: recorded statements, video-taped interviews, video-taped forensic interviews, sworn affidavits, depositions, police reports, governmental records, etc..
The question of creditability arises with Behavioral Chronologies, to avoid a credibility argument, citing has to be exact and verbatim.
Investigative Attributive Theory is when the investigator cites someone else in the Behavioral Chronology. As an example, the investigator receives a recorded statement from a witness. If the investigator quotes the recorded statement verbatim, uses quotes, and properly cites the quote, the investigator is not making the statement the witness is making the statement. The investigator is attributing the witnesses’ statement to the Behavioral Chronology.
Behavioral Chronologies are an important tool to better explain the time-line of consistent deviant behaviors over time “events”. Vilification of a family member should be an investigative focus. If vilification is occurring, a behavioral time line [chronology] may discover a family member’s hidden agenda(s). Any revision of the Behavioral Chronology needs to indicate with a revision date at the top of the document.
“An investigator should be hypothesis testing, rather than hypothesis confirming. A systematic thorough behavioral inquiry must be made when investigating child custody [matters] (Hillaker, Delta College, 93-02) and the facts need to be examined and analyzed with “New Eyes”. (Fritz Pearls)
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in Child Custody Disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. Its result’s from the combination of programming (brainwashing), parent’s indoctrination’s and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. (Gardner, R., 2001) PAS concept and dynamics include a complex network of involvement and motives on the part of all members acting in this PAS family dynamic. Each family member engage in PAS usually takes his or her own role in the PAS process prior to the dissolution or separation of the family. Identification of PAS early in a child suffering from PAS can diminish a child’s psychological damage. Early identification will allow a child to recover their true relationship with the targeted parent.
There is almost a point of n return for the child psychologically. Enough psychological damage can be done to the child, wherein the child never recovers from the indoctrination of false hood and vilification of the targeted parent. Identification and treatment early may diminish the harm caused psychologically to the child and the targeted parent.
Thus we should consider:
Behavioral Investigative Strategies and Conducting a Systematic Thorough Inquiry in Child Custody Cases
A forensic and clinical approach to investigating child custody cases:
Covert Investigative Methods
- Case preparation and review. Conduct a thorough case intake, extensive case review. Interview client and explore client’s complaint and all known behavioral family dynamics. Review all your client’s, attorneys and court clerk’s files. Establish if the client has legal standing to pursue a child custody investigation/evaluation. Review and obtain a “true copy” of the client’s most recent child custody order giving the client legal standing. Obtain a “Research and Investigative, General Durable of Attorney.” Evaluate principles psychologically, from a third party perspective. Discover if any parties have any Personal Protection Order(s) against principles. Prepare an inventory of all documents in a three ring note book, that is neat and organized.
- Review statutory elements of the child custody act and behavioral indicator of consistent deviant behaviors over time.
- Conference with attorney and client.
- Client completes behavioral questionnaire.
- Identify the preliminary behavioral theory of the case, constant deviant behaviors over time and significant psychological pathologies.
- Complete a Behavioral Witness List.
- Write a case profile, investigative outline defining the direction of the investigation submit it to client and attorney.
- Identify all potential witnesses that may have direct knowledge of “Consistent Deviant Behaviors Over Time”.
- Run all known principles through data bases, to obtain background information, including client.
- Prepare a time line of major family dynamics and events.
- Write a case profile report to client and attorney.
- Apply covert surveillance methods, place all principles, including targeted parent who is engaging in consistent deviant behaviors over time, to profile family dynamics of relevant deviant behaviors.
- Conduct frequent garbage archeology surveillance(s) and apply refuse archeology to profile family dynamics and consistent behaviors over time.
- Rewrite behavioral witness list, interdependent on witness profiles and submit to client and attorney.
- Develop a behavioral chronology of events; cite sources under American Psychological Association, including a revised date.
- Identify consistent deviant behaviors over time.
- Applications in investigative methods with Investigative Gestalt Theory.
- When the investigative team meets, attorney, investigator, client: there should be a determination as to when the investigation goes from covert to overt.
- The investigator meets with the attorney to discuss asking legal questions to the targeted parent (interrogatories or deposition). The intent is to get the targeted parent to lie about an important behavioral issue or family dynamic. If the targeted parent does not know they are under investigation, the targeted parent will lie about important consistent deviant behaviors over time.
- Write a case progress report and submit to client and their attorney.
Overt Investigative Methods
- If there has been a determination and approval from the client’s attorney, all witnesses are fair game to be interviewed.
- When nearing your court date conduct interviews of relevant witnesses, lock in witnesses’ statements and testimony.
- When nearing your court date interview the child(ren) who maybe effected by PAS.
- When applicable obtain the child(s) school records and interview the child(rens) teacher(s) and school staff.
- Revise witnesses list of new appropriate behavioral data and information, submit to attorney.
- Apply Investigative Attribution Theory to the known behavioral facts of the case.
- Applications in Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Vilification. (see caveat actor)
- Testing for PAS or SAID.
- The Use of Experts, in the Area of Child Custody, Investigationally, Legally.
- Write a report to attorney.
- Conduct follow up investigation based on your investigative results and request of client’s attorney.
- Compare witnesses statements to previous statements.
- Courtroom preparation and testifying.
- Observe various witnesses while testifying and communicate your observations to the attorney.
There is a First General Rule in Child Custody Investigations. If your target does not know you are investing them. The target will not change their “consistent deviant behaviors over time. Therefore when you start your investigation the first phase has to be covert.
Interview client, develop your behavioral witness list, backgrounds on known witnesses, covert surveillance including garbage archeology to behaviorally profile what your target really is doing in the world. Remember if you are discovered, your target will change their behaviors and the rest of your investigation is done. When it is time, you can let the other side know you are investigating your target. Interview potential hostile witness that are close to the target and give them one of your cards. Do his when you are close to trial or settlement hearing.
The Second General Rule is Testimonial evidence is Important in a child Custody Case, especially if the Witness Make a Good Appearance and has Direct Knowledge of Constant Deviant Behaviors Over Time. Those Consistent Deviant Behaviors Over Time you are Profiling Through Testimonial Evidence, the Family Referee or Court Judge will not allow their Children be exposed to!
Investigators who are practicing investigative methods and have an investigative work product. If the investigator is directly working with an attorney within the United States, you are covered under the attorneys privileged communicated by: United States V. Louis Kovell 1961. In Michigan private investigators are covered under MCL 338.840, private investigator privilege. In 2001 I was challenged in a Michigan Circuit Court, by an attorney who wanted to subpoena my private investigator work product. The attorney was claiming his client; the mother of a sexually abused child was suing my client, who I have previously worked of the defendant’s case. The defendant was the step-father of the minor child who claimed criminal sexual conduct. Because the mother had no standing with my investigation and my client was protected by private investigator privilege. I told the attorney I would not accept his subpoena. A few days later I was mailed a court order, ordering me to court to produce the documents and video-taps the attorney wanted. I wrote a QUASH Motion to the Circuit Court on the Courts Order, and obtained a court data.
The mistake I made was not writing the QUASH motion, when the attorney wanted to subpoena my records. I argued my motion, that the attorney’s client had no legal standing to subpoena my private investigator privileged records. I cited People v. White and Ravary v. Reed (Michigan).
Prior to the court preceding I attempted contact with my client to waive their privilege, my client refused to communicate with me. The attorney argued his client had legal standing because she was my client. I argued, his client was not my client. It is difficult to argue your own legal case in Circuit Court when you are not an attorney and your client has privileged communication. I can’t say what my investigation revealed or what the client told me. I could say who my client wasn’t. The attorney’s client was not my client. What made things worse, I had a child Custody case going with the same attorney at the same time as the subpoena for records issue. The Circuit Court Judge put my motion to QUASH on hold and ordered an in camera Inspection of my file. Just after all this happened, my client’s previous criminal attorney met me in the hall near the court room and released me, in writing by our mutual client, that I was released from privileged and I could release my file. If an investigator does not honor privileged communications there can be lots of legal repercussions.
Witnesses in Child Custody Cases:
“Nearly all persons with knowledge relevant to a legal case [child custody] may testify, only those limited by youth or mental incapacity are precluded. Ordinary witnesses are allowed to state only their knowledge and are required to express facts rather than opinions”. (Hillaker, F.L., Delta College, 93-02)
We are all emotional human beings who do not see things with “ … new eyes …”, but rather with emotionally biased eyes. Children’s’ and adults’ statements and testimony in the court setting is a dynamic process that doesn’t start when the witness is sworn, but from the case intake when contact is first made with the witness. The behavioral investigative process is a dynamic process; a systematic thorough inquiry must be made, all relevant behavioral case dynamics need to analyze in depth. Prior interpersonal relationships, family dynamics and witness individuals psychological inventory, need to be analyzed and compared to the behavioral aspects of the case. The investigative question arises: How can we as investigators avoid contamination of a witness of … thought, word and deed (Luther, M., 1529) … and avoid negatively impacting the investigative process … “ (Mitchel, J., Hillaker, F.L., Delta College, 1999)
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