We have previously blogged about the harm that psychological evaluations can have in a custody and access matter. Recently, another psychologist has faced criticism and been forced to apologize for their comments in a family dispute that unfairly prejudiced the father in the matter.
In this case, the parents of a young boy were involved in a high-conflict dispute over access to the child. The mother, who resided in British Columbia, sought out a psychological evaluation to establish that visitations with the father, who lived in Alberta, would be harmful to their son. The mother engaged the services of Dr. Cindy Hardy, who met with the child on three occasions.
After the second meeting, Dr. Hardy provided her first written assessment to the child’s mother, stating that the child exhibited signs of anxiety and stress and that he wished to stop visiting with his father and speaking with him on the phone. Dr. Hardy noted that she considered contacting the father for additional background information but ultimately decided against it.
In her final opinion, written after her third meeting with the child and his mother, the doctor expressed concern that the child, who was nine-years-old at the time, displayed a risk of self-harm if he were forced to visit with this father. The doctor acknowledged in this opinion that she had not spoken with the father, nor had she assessed the parents themselves.
In a hearing on the matter in Alberta, the judge was so concerned about the validity of Dr. Hardy’s opinion that she contacted the doctor by phone to inform her that her actions could be considered unethical. The judge went on to say that she would not be accepting Dr. Hardy’s opinion and expressed the fact that she was considering reporting the doctor’s conduct to her professional board.
Just a few days after the judge in Alberta rejected the opinion, a judge in British Columbia chose the opposite route. As a result, the father was unable to have any contact with his son for a significant period of time. During that time, the father submitted a formal complaint against Dr. Hardy with the College of Psychologists of B.C. The complaint was heard by the Health Professions Review Board (HPRB), which ultimately sided with the father. Dr. Hardy was ordered to issue a letter of apology to the child’s father for her role in the matter. In addition, she was ordered not to take any referrals to provide an opinion in a family law dispute.
The findings against the doctor are of little comfort to the father, who expressed the hurt to his family caused by the opinion:
It affected my immediate and extended family emotionally, financially and physically…I believe we all are trying to look ahead to the future, but the uninhibited comments from Dr. Hardy [have] done serious damage in regard to our relationship and time that was lost.
The father and son have since been able to spend time together, but there is a gap in time that will no doubt have implications for their dynamic for some time. Another parent also informed the CBC that they are in the process of filing a similar complaint against Dr. Hardy for her role in a separate high-conflict family dispute.
The matter detailed above demonstrates the importance of finding a legal advocate who places the best interests of the child at the forefront of their representation of a parent in a child custody dispute. Overlooking what is best for a child in favour of ‘winning’ a conflict will have long-lasting repercussions for the entire family.
The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to child custody and access disputes following the breakdown of a relationship. We will work with you to ensure a custody and access arrangement that fits your family’s specific circumstances and places the wellbeing of your child(ren) front and centre. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.
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