Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

What Does A Custody/Parenting Time Expert Report Look Like? (Part 2)

RELEVANT BACKGROUND INFORMATION WITH DISCUSSION FOR MR. JAMES JONES AND MS. MARY WILLIAMS:

The purpose of this section, Relevant Background Information with Discussion, is to provide: 1) a synopsis of the relevant historical data concerning the parties’ relationship, and 2) an analysis of this historical data based upon research in terms of custody. This section is based upon interviews with the parties, interviews and observations with John and Jane, collateral contacts, provided written materials, and relevant published research.

With respect to provided information regarding the parties’ early relationship history, the historical data provided by both parties was generally compatible. Additionally, the parties’ perceptions were generally compatible with data revealed by their own objective psychometric testing. The similarity lends a higher degree of concurrent validity to the parties’ statements and resulting evaluation.

Specifically, both parties reported that they and the other party were married prior to their marriage. Mr. Jones was married to Ms. Laura Davis in approximately 1992. Mr. Jones indicated his marriage to Ms. Davis lasted less than a year and no children were born of the union.

Ms. Williams indicated that she was married twice prior to her marriage to Mr. Jones. Her first marriage to Mr. Christopher Miller, occurred in 1980, and lasted approximately 6 months. No children were born of this union. Ms. Williams’ second marriage to Mr. Adam Nielson occurred in 1987 and lasted until 1996. There was one child, Marie Williams born of this union. Ms. Williams indicated that she maintains a cordial, but not necessarily close relationship with her second husband.

With respect to the parties’ relationship and marriage, both parties reported that they met at a deposition in approximately 1996. Mr. Jones indicated:

“I was asked by a senior partner of the firm I was working for to represent her (i.e. Ms. Williams at a deposition and she was a client of that firm. She was very intelligent and pretty”.

Mr. Jones went on to state that he enjoyed Ms. Williams’ company and they enjoyed traveling together. The relationship progressed and they were married in 1998.

Compatibly, Ms. Williams indicated:

“James represented me during the deposition as a favor to me so I didn’t have to retain an attorney. He called several months later to ask me out to dinner. We had a lot of interests in common and he was very easy to talk to. He is several years younger than me so I was hesitant at first to get into a relationship with him but he was very persistent. He liked to go places and do interesting things”.

Ms. Williams went on to indicate:

“We did a wide range of fun things and our relationship progressed fairly rapidly but with my daughter Marie only 5 or 6 years old in the beginning, we had to take it one step at a time. We had some issues early in the relationship with James’ controlling behavior but we were married June 1998.

Both parties went to suggest that despite some problems, they generally enjoyed their early marriage and newborn twins John and Jane.

When asked what went wrong, Mr. Jones indicated that the parties drifted apart due to the responsibilities of raisin twins and his feelings of resentment towards Ms. Williams regarding her working long hours. Specifically, Mr. Jones indicated:

“After John and Jane were born, we were under a lot of stress and we slowly drifted apart. She worked all the time and I began to resent her for it.

Mr. Jones also indicated that he felt somewhat depressed and did not experience much motivation towards work during this period of time.

When similarly asked “What went wrong”, Ms. Williams gave a compatible response, she indicated:

“James did not want to work and shortly after we were married he quit his job as a lawyer. At first he said it was the commute but later admitted that he didn’t like being a lawyer and wanted to do real estate. He never really earned a living after that and we lived solely off of my income which put even more pressure on me. Despite that, he was clearly angry at me for working and being successful. His angry outbursts started in 2004 and became a daily routine scaring me to the point of not feeling safe in his presence”.

Likewise, both parties contend that over the course of their marriage, that there has been a history of substance use/abuse. Specifically, Mr. Jones contends that both he and Ms. Williams use to drink alcohol “considerably” and smoked marijuana. However, he contends that he no longer drinks to excess or smokes marijuana. Likewise, although he admits he has no “first hand” knowledge, Mr. Jones stated that he does not believe Ms. Williams drinks to excess or smokes marijuana.

With respect to issues of substance use/abuse, Ms. Williams initially indicated:

“James has a documented history of abusing marijuana and alcohol and towards the end of our marriage, stated to e that he smoked marijuana virtually every day from before we were married to the time of our separation in March 2007. He also drank during the latter part of our marriage and during the separation. He was advised by doctors in September 2009 to stop all marijuana use and over the course of the year followed I believe he did”.

However, it is important to note that subsequent to this statement, Ms. Williams repeatedly expressed her ongoing concerns over the course of this evaluation regarding Mr. Jones’ possible current use of marijuana.

Similarly, Ms. Williams indicated that Mr. Jones had been confined to a mental institution in September 2007 when the police were called to the house. Similar to her persistent concerns about Mr. Jones use of marijuana, Ms. Williams also repeatedly expressed her ongoing apprehensions about Mr. Jones mental status.

Yet, neither party reported or provided objective data which suggests current ongoing, excessive use of alcohol or the use of marijuana. For example, neither party has a recent history of DUI arrests or convictions, excessive absence from work, financial problems, marital problems, police involvement, credit card receipts, etc. Likewise neither party had any elevations on their objective psychometric testing suggesting substance abuse or addiction. (Please see Results section for each party).

Furthermore, it should also be noted that there has been no history of ongoing “Division” findings or involvement, arrests, restraining orders, etc. which might suggest similar current fitness or safety considerations, substance abuse considerations, etc. In fact, despite any concerns, both parties indicated that the children should have extensive parenting time with the other parent.

With respect to historical factors regarding the children, the parties both reported that Jane and John were generally healthy babies born by a C section.

Similarly, both parties indicated that the children are generally healthy, have reached developmental milestones within anticipated ranges, and they are unaware of any unique custody/parenting time accommodations with respect to the children’s physical needs. (See Clinical Results and Discussion for Jane Jones and Clinical Results and Discussion for John Jones sections).

However, both parties reported that John has a history of requiring some special attention with respect to his educational needs. Both parties indicated that Ms. Williams initiated an afterschool and summer program with Susan Petrick to address the same. (Please see Clinical Results and Discussion for John Jones section). Although John completed this program during the course of this evaluation, he continues to receive support through Oratory Preparatory School based upon records provided.

However, with respect to John’s education needs, Ms. Williams indicated that she remains concerned that Mr. Jones has and will fail to recognize and attend to John’s ongoing need for structure and follow through on the part the parents Ms. Williams provided numerous emails to support her position.

With respect to more recent history, other historical factors have occurred which are appear to be impacting the current litigation. First, both parties have moved a greater distance from each other since the MSA was developed. Both parties are quick to point out that the other party did not fully inform them or consider how their move might impact custody/parenting time arrangements. Yet, both parties also indicated that most, but not all, of the transitions occur at school.

Second, with respect to more recent history, Jane and John have consistently attended Oratory Preparatory School. Both parties support the children’s continued enrollment at OPS and are willing to provide transportation to/from their home and the school.

Third, both parties have remarried since their divorce. It appears that Mr. James Jones is not particularly concerned with the involvement of Ms. Williams’ new husband Mr. Schaeffer. However, Ms. Williams feels that Mr. Jones’ new wife Lisa is overly involved.

For example, Ms. Williams alleges that Ms. Jones responds to her emails rather than Mr. Jones. Ms. Williams went on to point out that she is co-parenting with Mr. Jones and not Ms. Jones. She similarly believes that Mr. Jones’ ongoing refusal to respond and over reliance on Ms. Jones is indicative of his lack of involvement and failure to address parenting problems in a timely fashion.

Moreover, Ms. Williams believes that Mr. Jones often “usurps” her role. For example, Ms. Williams contends that Mr. Jones: 1) does not correct the children when they call her mommy thereby implying that she is their mother, and 2) engages in sensitive activities which should be exclusively performed by a child’s mother such as purchasing Jane’s first bra.

Fourth, Mr. Jones and Ms. Jones have a new daughter, Wendy. As their half-sister John and Jane dearly love and are emotionally bonded to Wendy. Likewise, John and Jane are close and emotionally bonded to Marie, their half-sister through Ms. Williams. As a result, any future parenting time plan should logically support these relationships. (Please see Recommendations section).

Fifth, the parties developed a custody parenting time schedule beyond what was specifically noted on the MSA. Although this plan calls for more extensive time for Mr. Jones, issues have evolved over its implementation. For example, Mr. Jones is concerned that the children return to Ms. Williams’ residence on Sunday night only to sleep and have them return to his care on Monday morning or after school on Monday. Mr. Jones indicated that this transition does little except to have the children spend extra time commuting between their parents’ home. Mr. Jones went on to claim that his transition is disruptive to his weekend, is not necessary, and is not in the children’s best interest.

Similarly, another concern raised by the expanded parenting time concerns the completion of the children’s homework and their studying for tests. Specifically, Ms. Williams is concerned that Mr. Jones does not adequately address the children’s homework or preparing for tests during his parenting time. As a result, they are unprepared and she must make up assignments during her parenting time. Although she is willing to do so because it is in her children’s best interests, she believes that if she were to have more time at the beginning of the week, the children’s homework would be complete and they would be better prepared for tests.

However, as previously noted, it is important to recognize that the parties: 1) were able to communicate and cooperate enough to come to this schedule, and 2) continue to support extensive time with the other parent. Thus, despite the parties concerns, there appears little if any data to support that either party is engaging in purposeful estrangement or fostering alignment.

Sixth, with respect to recent history, Mr. Jones indicated that he is continuing to see Dr. Hoffman, is taking medication and all of his prior symptoms appear to be in remission. Importantly, Mr. Jones Objective psychometric testing appears consistent and suggests a lack of clinical features including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and hostility.

Seventh, the parties have employed and resolved some issues through the use of a parenting coordinator, Ms. Shirley Mason. However, Ms. Williams is hesitant with respect to Ms. Mason’s continued involvement indicating that the process takes too long and has not resolved significant issues such as the holiday schedule.

With respect to the parties’ individual history and analysis based upon research, there are several significant historical factors which research suggests might impact custody/parenting time.

First, logic and research can be consistently interpreted and directly indicates that the historical and/or current mental status (i.e. “fitness”, personality factors, and ability to provide a consistent environment) of an individual can influence their ability to: 1) focus and act on the child’s best interests, 2) foster the child’s development, and 3) communicate and work cooperatively with the other parent (Ostler; Ackerman; Stahl; Gardner; Drozd).

In this case, neither party was found to have clinical symptoms of a current gross psychological condition which might impact their ability to parent or c-parent such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. Furthermore, as previously noted, there was no recent data presented such as therapy records, police reports, Court decisions, “Division” interventions, which would support the notion that either party has a current gross fitness significant psychological/custody issue which might impact custody/parenting time plans.

Yet, it should be recognized that Ms. Williams’ allegations and Mr. Jones’ confirming statements indicate that Mr. Jones has a past history of mental health issues which required hospitalization almost 5 years ago. Moreover, if left unaddressed, research suggests that Mr. Jones’ historical mental health issues would have played a significant factor in his ability to focus on the children’s best interests.

However, it appears that Mr. Jones’ psychological issues was and are being appropriately addressed given the: 1) time since his hospitalization 2) absence of re-hospitalization or other data suggesting a fitness factor such recent loss of employment, FRO, “Division involvement, etc. 3) apparent lack of current clinical symptoms, 4) objective psychometric testing, and 5) apparent compliance and positive response to ongoing treatment based upon a letter from Dr. Hoffman, Mr. Jones’ psychiatrist, and 6) a letter from Dr. Hoffman indicating that Mr. Jones’ symptoms are in “remission” and the main stressor in his life is “his strained relationship with his ex-wife”.

On a related basis, Ms. Williams stated fears regarding Mr. Jones’ current use of marijuana or alcohol remain unsupported on an objective basis. Specifically, no direct or indirect data was revealed to support Ms. Williams’ concerns such as arrest records, loss of employment, “Division” intervention etc. Likewise, Mr. Jones’ objective psychometric testing does not support the notion that he is abusing drugs or has a high drug abuse potential.

It is also important to note that over the course of the evaluation, Ms. Williams repeatedly alleged that Mr. Jones was verbally abusive and physically threatening towards her. For example, Ms. Williams alleged that Mr. Jones would yell at her, throw objects, and hit himself. Eventually, Mr. Jones’ behavior led to her calling 911 in 2007. (It was this incident which led to Mr. Jones’ psychiatric hospitalization). Ms. Williams also provided emails supporting her allegations.

However, it should also be noted that no records such as police reports, restraining orders, hospitalization records for Ms. Williams, etc. were provided which might objectively verify domestic abuse. Likewise, despite her concern, Ms. Williams did not report the incidents to the “Division” in order to protect the children.

It is also important to note that despite Ms. Williams’ concerns, the children do not report that their father acts in an angry fashion towards their mother.

As a result, Ms. Williams’ concerns for her children appear heartfelt. But, the basis of her concerns (i.e. allegations That Mr. Jones acted in an abusive fashion towards her) remain unverified on an objective basis.

With respect to Ms. Williams’ psychological status, the data appears less consistent. Although Mr. Jones made no allegations as to historical mental health issues with respect to Ms. Williams, Ms. Williams’ clinical presentation and corresponding elevations on her objective psychometric testing suggests that she is like to have some sub-acute psychological issues which cannot be attributed solely to the current litigation on her allegations that Mr. Jones acted in an abusive fashion towards her.

Specifically, Ms. Williams psychometric testing indicates that she has a history of hyper vigilance and a heightened interpersonal sensitivity that cannot be attributed to the current litigation. Although, these personality characteristics do not represent a gross psychological fitness factor such as schizophrenia, research indicates that they may impact her ability to trust, predispose her to oversensitivity, and influence her ability to co-parent. (Please see Results for Ms. Williams, Discussion, and Recommendations sections).

Yet it should be noted that Ms. Williams’ hyper vigilance has served as a benefit to the children at times. For example, it is likely that John would have ever received the special needs tutoring and follow-up he has received without Ms. Williams’ attention.

Thus, rather than gross psychopathic or fitness issues, it appears that the parties’ underlying personalities are impacting the current litigation. Specifically, Mr. Jones’ underlying personality is rather relaxed and his approach to parenting appears rather laissez faire. In contrast, Ms. Williams is very vigilant and her approach to parenting is very focused. As a result, the parties appear to engage in a cycle of approach/avoidance and conflict.

For example, to enter the cycle at any point, Ms. Williams is concerned about the children’s school work and test preparation. As a result, she contacts Mr. Jones about what he needs to do. Rather than face Ms. Williams’ concerns/direction, Mr. Jones avoids the issue. In turn, Ms. Williams only becomes more empathic and insists that he must; the cycle continues.

Thus, with respect to fitness, this evaluator was left with the impression that neither party suffers a current gross psychological factor which might impact their ability to parent. However, their underlying personalities are impacting their ability to co-parent. As a result, both parties should continue to address their underlying status through ongoing therapy because it is likely to impact their ability to effectively co-parent. Moreover, they should address their process of co-parenting through co-parenting therapy. (Please see Recommendations section).

Second, research (Baker; Carter) indicates that historical issues which verify purposeful alienation, estrangement, poor parenting skills, etc. can affect and/or reflect an individual’s ability to parent or co-parent. Additionally, these same behaviors (i.e. alienation, estrangement, poor parenting, fostering alignment, etc.) can also directly a child’s psychological development and best interests (Carter).

With respect to this case, it is important to note that both parties verbally and behaviorally support the involvement of the other parent. Likewise, no data was provided by either party to suggest either party engages in behaviors commonly associated with estrangement and purposeful alienation, etc. such as name calling, making false allegations, limiting contact with the extended family, involving the Division, pathologizing the other parent to the child etc.

Third, research generally shows that each party’s historical family-of-origin can, but does not always, influence and individual’s later ability to effectively parent (Rohrabacher; Stahl). For example, it is well documented phenomenon that abused children are at a higher risk for becoming abusing parents.

With respect to this case, Mr. Jones stated that he was one of three children. Although Mr. Jones indicated that he was shy and preferred playing to school work, Mr. Jones denied any historical factors which research suggests are associated with later parenting/co-parenting issues. (Ex: abuse, punitive or corporal punishment, medical problems, financial problems, legal problems, social problems, special needs, etc.) In fact, with the exception of describing his mother as “controlling”, Mr. Jones described a rather traditional childhood.

With respect to Ms. Williams’ family history, Ms. Williams stated that she was one of four children. She stated that she was close to both parents, had friends, and participated in different social groups. Similar to Mr. Jones, Ms. Williams did not report any historical significant factors which research suggests are associated with later parenting/co-parenting issues.

Thus this evaluator was left with the impression that neither parties’ individual history appears to overly impact their current ability to parent. However, their ability to co-parent is negatively impacted by the history of this case, the current litigation, and their underlying personalities (See above).

Fourth, on a logical basis, a parent’s physical health should be considered if it impacts their ability to parent or is life threatening. In this case, neither party reported a medical condition which is currently impacting their ability to parent nor is life threatening.

Fifth, on a similar basis, a parent’s legal status including immigration status and pending legal cases should be considered if it impacts their ability to parent. In this case, neither party reports any current legal proceedings such as misdemeanor/felony charges, pending TRO’s, “Division” abuse/neglect cases, etc.

Moreover, during the course of this evaluation, there was no data presented to objectively confirm that either party has ever acted in a fashion to suggest domestic violence towards John and Jane. Likewise, there was no data presented to objectively confirm that either party has ever acted in a fashion to suggest neglect.

Sixth, research (Han) can be interpreted to show that variables which involve parental employment ca affect a child’s later development. For example, extensive time away from a small toddler or infant may negatively impact bonding. Similarly, adolescents may logically require different types of supervision and transportation than a young child.

With respect to this case, both parties indicated that their current positions should not impact their ability to parent.

CLINICAL ASSESSMENT AND RESULTS FOR JANE JONES:

Jane Jones was naturalistically observed and interviewed twice at each of her parent’s homes. The first time occurred at Mr. Jones’ home; the second occurred at Ms. Williams home. During both observations and interviews, Jane responded in an articulate and focused manner for an eight year old. Data provided over the course of both interviews and observations was generally consistent.

According to both parties, Jane was born after a normal pregnancy. However, her actual birth involved a “C section”. Developmentally, Jane appears to have reached developmental milestone such as walking and talking at anticipated intervals. Neither party reported that Jane had any unique or highly unusual educational, developmental, or medical needs which need to be directly addressed vis-à-vis the custody/parenting plan.

With respect to future parenting plans, research consistently indicates that children do better if there is exposure to both parents absent of a “fitness” feature and it is essential that conflict be minimized. (Cater; Drozd). As previously indicated, no gross fitness factors were objectively confirmed within all degree of psychological probability.

Additionally, as previously noted, it is important to note that there has been no ongoing DYFS or “Division” involvement in this case, individual educational plans, etc. which involve Jane which might impact future custody/parenting time arrangements.

With respect to objective psychometric instruments, parenting time assessments using objective and projective psychometric instruments regarding Jane’s custody preferences were not used in this case because research (Ackerman; Ben-Porath) clearly indicates that psychological tests to determine custody are generally not reliable or valid. Furthermore, psychological tests which are used with children to determine custody are no longer widely used. As a result, they often fail to meet evidentiary standards (Ackerman; Ben-Porath).

However, based upon clinical interviews, several factors came to light. First, Jane stated a preference for living and having parenting time with both parents and her half-siblings.

Importantly, Jane also identified that she believes that both of her step-parents love her. She also identified activities which she does with each step-parent such as going shopping with Ms. Jones and building things like a dog house with Mr. Schaeffer.

Second, it was clear that Jane loves both her parents and does not want to speak badly or have either become upset. For example, when discussing the current parenting plan, her responses became much shorter and she started to play with a toy in a nervous, distracting fashion. Likewise, she refused to discuss her parents yelling at each other.

Third, Jane’s responses appeared somewhat logical given her age. However, they also appeared to avoid identifying a favorite. For example, when asked who she would ask for help with homework, Jane responded which ever parent was present. However, when asked the companion of who does a better job of following up on your homework, Jane responded, “mom”.

Fourth, Jane did not provide data or responses indicating that either parent is actively or directly engaging in behaviors which might lead to alienation. For example, Jane stated that her parents do not speak negatively of each other in front of her although does overhear them speaking to others. Similarly, Jane’s speech did not reflect “borrowed phrases”, over-riding negative sentiment, etc. commonly found in cases where active alienation is taking place.

Likewise, Jane described a variety of activities she enjoys doing with both parents. For example, she loves horseback riding and enjoys riding Wizard at her father’s home and May at her mother’s home.

Fifth, Jane denied either of her parents engage in corporal punishment or act in a fashion which suggests physical abuse.

Finally, Jane’s responses were consistent with parental reports that she does not have any special or unique needs which need to be addressed in terms of the custody/parenting plan. Specially, Jane presented no data or indications during this evaluation to suggest any gross organic or psychological condition (such as cerebral palsy, autism, etc.) or educational needs which might affect custody or the parenting time schedule.

Thus, a custody/parenting plan which directly supports Jane’s relationship with both of her parents (and half-siblings) and her own psychological development is obviously in Jane’s best interests, (See Recommendations section).

CLINICAL ASSESSMENT AND RESULTS FOR JOHN JONES :

John Joseph was naturalistically observed and interviewed on the same day as his sister at each of his parent’s homes. During both observations and interviews, John appeared happy and responded in an open fashion. Data provided over the course of both interviews and observations was generally consistent.

John is a fraternal twin and born after a normal pregnancy. His birth was by “C section”. Despite some issues with asthma, John appears to have also reached developmental milestone such as walking and talking at anticipated intervals. (Note: John’s asthma treatment plan is now being addressed largely by his mother and the school).

With respect to special needs John does have a history of special education needs. (No other medical or psychological needs such as autism, blindness, etc. were noted by either parent, provided records, or during the observation). Once identified, Ms. Williams has consistently taken the lead in securing additional support services for John including specialized tutoring through Susan Petrick in Princeton. Although both parents made sure John attended “tutoring”, both parties confirmed that Ms. Williams was the primary force behind John getting the additional help he required.

When speaking to John about seeing Susan Petrick, there was little if any resistance noted. He stated:

“It’s ok. I usually go on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I feel smarter with her. I don’t love it, but it is working”.

(Note: Over the course of this evaluation, John did complete his tutoring program with Susan Petrick. He is now only receiving support services from Oratory Preparatory School according to both parents).

With respect to parenting time, research consistently indicates that children do better if there is exposure to both parents absent case specific features such as gross fitness factors. (Cater; Drozd). In this case, no gross fitness factors were objectively confirmed within all degree of psychological probability.

Likewise, as previously noted, it is important to note that there has been no ongoing DYFS or “Division” involvement in this case, individual educational plans, etc. which involve John which might impact future custody/parenting time arrangements.

Also, as previously noted, objective and projective psychometric instruments regarding John’s custody preferences were not used in this case because research (Ackerman; Ben-Porath) clearly indicates that psychological tests used with children who are John’s age are generally not reliable or valid. Furthermore, psychological tests which are used in children to determine custody are no longer widely used. As a result, they often fail to meet evidentiary standards (Ackerman; Ben-Porath).

However based upon clinical interviews, several factors came to light with respect to parenting time. First, John stated a logical preference for there to be fewer transitions between his parents. He finds the current schedule “confusing” in terms of where he will be and his belongings are. For example, he stated:

I would like longer block with each one. So, I don’t like to keep going back and forth. It kinda gets annoying. I need to get all the stuff I need and it is confusing. You think you are going to stay at the house and you’re not. You don’t have your stuff. Like books or stuff. It doesn’t work well. I think something like every other day because it would be easier. I don’t think longer would be good because it would take like 7 days to get it. But if it was only two, I could get it sooner.

Second, John appeared to avoid identifying a preference with respect to either parent’s home which is an age typical response where the child wants to be “fair” and doesn’t want to hurt either parent’s feelings. Likewise, he provided an age appropriate rational for living with each of his parents. In terms of living with his father, John stated:

“The best part of living with dad is we have a lot of stuff and I have a TV in my room. We can relax and just hang out on the couch and watch TV”.

With respect to living with his mother, John stated:

“The best part of living with mom is X-Box, Netflix, and having a farm. I have lots of stuff there too. I have more friends at moms”.

Third, John did not provide data or responses indicating that either parent is actively or directly engaging in behaviors which might lead to alienation. For example, John’s speech did not reflect “borrowed phrases”, over-riding negative sentiment, etc. commonly found in cases where active alienation is taking place.

Fourth, John also denied either of his parents engage in corporal punishment or act in a fashion which suggests physical abuse.

Finally, John’s responses were also similar with parental reports that he requires more follow through, a higher degree of consistency, and greater structure with respect to academics. This need might be better fostered by less switching between the parties’ residences.

Thus, a custody/parenting plan which directly supports John’s relationship with both of his parents (and half-siblings), his own psychological development, and provides for simpler structure is in John’s best interest. (See Recommendations section).

COLLATERAL CONTACT FOR MS. LISA JONES:

Ms. Lisa Jones (age 38) was seen as: 1) a collateral contact in order to provide information regarding the best interests of the children, and 2) to screen for data which might impact the children’s best interests.

Overall Ms. Jones was pleasant and willingly provided information. No data of concern was revealed which might directly pertain to Ms. Jones in her role as step-parent. She is able to act in the children’s best interests and support Mr. Jones in his role.

Moreover, Ms. Jones appears to be emotionally bonded to the children and takes and active role in their lives. She supports their best interests by providing transportation, cooking, etc.

It is also important to note that Ms. Jones does not appear to taking this active approach to upset Ms. Williams. Rather she appears to be taking an active approach because she is bonded to the children, wants to nurture the children, and sees Jane and John as part of her merged “family”.

COLLATERAL CONTACT FOR MR. THOMAS SCHAEFFER:

Mr. Thomas Schaffer (age 53) was also seen as a collateral contact in order to provide information regarding the best interests of the children and to screen for data which might impact the children’s best interests.

Similar to Ms. Jones, Mr. Schaeffer was pleasant although somewhat more reserved. Again, no data of concern was revealed which might directly pertain to Mr. Schaeffer in his role as step-parent.

Mr. Schaeffer is also able to act in the children’s best interests and supports Ms. Williams in her role. However, he takes a less active approach, as compared to Ms. Jones, indicating that he is not the children’s parent. Rather, he identified himself as a concerned adult figure in their life. However, he appears to be emotionally bonded to the children and actively supports their best interests by providing guidance, engaging in recreational activities, etc.