Lawyers know the law, litigation strategy and
but seldom know more about child development
and family dynamics
than what they observe in their own homes after
wouldn't argue a complex property settlement
forensic accountants, tax and inheritance
You wouldn't argue torts without first
soliciting expert medical opinions.
So why would you ever enter a courtroom on
behalf of an aggrieved parent
without first consulting an expert in child
development, family functioning and parenting?
About Dr. Garber
Garber is a New Hampshire licensed
psychologist, parenting coordinator,
former guardian ad litem, and
expert consultant to family law
matters across the United States and
Canada. Dr. Garber is a prolific
writer and acclaimed speaker. He is
the author of eight books concerned
with better understanding and serving
the needs of children, more than two
dozen juried professional publications
concerned with high conflict family
dynamics, and hundreds of popular
Learn more about
Dr. Garber's speaking and media
Across roles, Dr.
Garber is first and foremost a
children's advocate. As a clinician, as
a consulting expert, as a writer and as
a speaker, Dr. Garber's goal is to help
parents, professionals, courts and
organizations to better understand child
development and family dynamics so as to
put children's needs first.
Dr. Garber's child-centered approach is
particularly important in his work as a family
law consultant. Far too often, experts serve the
needs and wishes of litigants, adding an
unnecessary and expensive layer of conflict to
an already top-heavy and inefficient process.
Whether working for counsel or the court, Dr.
Garber retains the right to speak out in the
best interests of the child.
Garber has lived and worked in New Hampshire
since 1987. He is active in the greater Nashua
community, has consulted to the state
government, and been instrumental in the
development of child-focused agencies and
legislation. He is active in family law
organizations throughout New England and
around the planet. He has published
his "HealthyParent" column (and more recently
blog) for the Nashua Sunday Telegraph twice
monthly for more than twenty years.
Ben Garber is himself a son, a husband, a proud
father and grandfather. Outside of work, he is
an avid kayaker, fisherman and woodsman.
Expert consultation to
family law matters:
Family law matters
don't belong in our courts.
courts are built to resolve criminal matters.
Our judicial officers are trained to think in
terms of guilt and innocence, victim and
perpetrator, and to dole out punishments.
Bringing the intimate and emotional
relationship conflicts inherent in separation,
divorce, "custody," "visitation," and
relocation (for example) before these courts
is a bit like asking a surgeon to remedy a
virus. The answer often makes the problem
acrimonious nature of the judicial system
polarizes parties. Lawyers fuel conflict in
the name of zealous advocacy, driving the
wedge between parents deeper. Everyone loses
under these circumstances, no one more so than
course, there are exceptions. Some courts and
some jurists get it. Some jurisdictions have
created family courts and filled them with
mediators and arbiters who understand at least
the basics of child development and family
dynamics. Dr. Garber's book, "Developmental
Psychology For Family Law Professionals" and
numerous related publications are helping to
lead the way.
When family law
matters are brought before the
family law consultant can shift the
to a well-informed,
time-efficient negotiation intent
on serving a child's needs.
As an expert family law consultant, Dr. Garber
Review and help you
to interpret academic, psychometric
(i.e., testing), and psychotherapeutic
records relevant to custody
Review and critique
Guardian ad litem process,
reports and testimony
Review and critique
proposed evaluation methods and
instruments in light of current best
practices, relevant ethics and the
Review and critique
existing individual and family systems
evaluation (e.g., "custody
evaluation") reports in advance of
deposition, examination and
Guardians ad litem and/or the
court in relevant areas of child and
family development and such "hot button"
areas as alienation and enmeshment,
custody and special needs children, and
"the voice of the child."
Work with counsel to
prepare for deposition, examination and
cross-examination of witnesses
simple and clear expert testimony
focused on the child's needs and the
As an expert family
law consultant, Dr. Garber will NOT:
Coach your client so
as to distort his or her participation
in evaluation, testing or investigation
Put the child's needs
second to your litigation strategy or
your client's wishes
How do you
know if Dr. Garber's expert family law
consulting services can benefit your case?
Call or e-mail now for to
Speaking and continuing
is privileged to address child-centered
professional audiences across the globe. His
half-day, full-day and two-day workshops are
entertaining, informative and routinely
well-received. A sample of the continuing
education topics he has recently addressed
“What is a
"mature minor"? Child and family
development in the context of
the love of Fluffy: Transitional
objects and high conflict divorce."
of the child in high conflict
family law matters”
and addressing the dynamics of
high conflict divorce.”
to the voice of the child”
the polarized family: Cognitive
behavioral methods in
choice: The child's wishes in the
context of divorce and
custody evaluation time-efficiency
and ecological validity: A
View Dr. Garber's one-hour
closing keynote to the Ohio Supreme Court
judicial section in its entirety
Dr. Garber welcomes the
opportunity to speak to your group or
Please contact him directly for cost, travel and
About psychological testing in
family law matters
first distinguished itself as a field
from medicine through the development
and administration of standardized
diagnostic testing instruments.
Although psychology has grown far
beyond testing, psycho-diagnostic
assessment today remains a thriving
and valuable field. Psychological
testing can be a reliable and valid
means of understanding the
testing can be particularly useful in
criminal matters, with regard to
occupational training and placement,
and when diagnosis can help to guide
Read more about adult psychometric
testing in custody matters at
"... it is important to
note that the definition of
mental disorder included in DSM-5
was developed to meet the needs of
public health professionals, and
rather than all of the technical
the courts and legal professionals."
law matters are not, however, about the
individual. Questions concerning a child's
future care and well-being are about the
quality if the "fit" in relationships:
How does a mother's
particular strengths and weaknesses fit the
unique needs of her child?
Is a father sensitive and
responsive to his children's needs?
Are two adults able to
put aside their differences in order to meet
their children's needs?
psychological testing quantifies and qualifies
the individual's functioning, it is often of
little or no value answering relationship
questions, at a tremendous cost in etrms of
money, time and stigma associated with the
person tested. Determining that Mom is
depressed or that Dad has a character disorder
has no necessary bearing on how eight-year-old
Billy is cared for. Worse, these and similar
diagnoses commonly exacerbate litigation,
turning custody contests into arguments over
which parent has more or worse diagnoses.
and related reasons, Dr. Garber seldom uses
standardized psychometric assessments in his
work with families. As an expert family law
consultant, Dr. Garber seeks to educate the
court about the dubious reliability and
validity of these instruments when a child's
needs are at stake.
Learn more here
B.D. & Simon, R.A. (2018).
Individual Adult Psychometric Testing
and Child Custody Evaluations:If
the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Wear It.
Journal of the American Academy of
Matrimonial Lawyers, 30 (2), 325-341.
& Flens, J. (2005). Psychological
Testing in Child Custody Cases.
Hagan, L. D.,
& Hagan, A. C. (2008). Custody
evaluations without psychological
testing: Prudent practice or fatal
flaw? Journal of Psychiatry & Law,
Edens, J.F. & Barcus, E.H. (2000).
The use of psychological testing in
child custody evaluations. Family
Court Review, 38(3), 312–340.
Ellis, E. M.
(2012). Are MMPI–2 Scale 4 elevations
common among child custody litigants?
Journal of Child Custody: Research,
Issues, and Practices, 9(3), 179-194.
When parents bring
child-centered conflicts into the courts, their
options are quite limited:
The court can seek to resolve the matter
directly and without assistance. Lawyers
and parties will argue their cases and the
judicial officer will bang his or her
gavel, issuing a decision that may
represent a compromise between the adults'
wishes without ever having seen or heard
the child in any manner.
The court can appoint a Guardian ad
litem (GAL) to investigate specific
questions. The GAL serves as the court's
eyes and ears and boots on the ground,
observing, collecting and digesting data
and feeding it back to the court. These
data can then be considered in addition to
counsels' and parties' arguments before
the gavel is banged and a decision
is handed down.
This same process can proceed with the
benefit of child-centered expert
testimony: Professionals who can help the
court put the GAL's observations and the
various arguments in the perspective of
child development and family dynamics.
The court orders that parties
participate in a comprehensive
child-centered family evaluation to be
conducted by an impartial, skilled mental
health professional and intended to
address the specific issues in conflict.
Parties and their children are interviewed
and observed. Collateral references are
collected. Medical, mental health,
educational, occupational, criminal and
historical records are digested. These
data are then presented to the court in
the form of a report, thereby making the
process impartial, comprehensive, and
provides comprehensive, child-centered family
system evaluations. Each evaluation is
tailored to the specific family's needs and
the questions asked by the court. The process
is rigorous and demanding. It can require in
excess of sixty (60) hours of work, but the
time and effort and emotion and money invested
in this process is both far less than that
invested in high conflict litigation and a far
better investment in the child's future.
Dr. Garber's pioneering
protocol has globally improved the
quality, efficiency and validity of
systemic evaluations in every context.
Read more here
Although the terms and details of
every family systems evaluation are
unique, this generic sample Service
Agreement may help to explain the
For further details, please contact Dr. Garber
Standards of Practice for Child Custody
Evaluation (AFCC, 2006)
Psychological Association Guidelines for
Child Custody Evaluations (APA, 2010)
know the law, litigation strategy, and
courthouse procedure, but seldom know more
about child development and family dynamics
than what they observe in their own homes
after work. You wouldn't argue a complex
property settlement matter without consulting
forensic accountants, tax and inheritance
experts. You wouldn't argue torts without
first soliciting expert medical opinion. So
why would you ever enter a courtroom on behalf
of an aggrieved parent without first
consulting an expert in childhood, families
review is the process of dissecting the
history of a family's conflict, a child's
development from conception through the
present, and the history of litigation, so as
to advise counsel what next steps might best
serve the child's needs. For example:
review can identify a child's
developmental, psychological, medical
and/or educational needs that litigation
has failed to consider to date as these
are relevant to future caregiving
decisions. For example: How do parents'
differences about the diagnosis and
treatment of their son's Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) bear on
review can identify logical, procedural,
technical and/or ethical flaws in past
evaluations and/or psychotherapies
relevant to future caregiving decisions.
review can educate counsel and/or the
court about the many dynamics (e.g.,
alienation, enmeshment and/or
estrangement) that co-occur when children
resist or refuse contact with one parent
in favor of the other, how best to
identify and remedy these pressures.
Case review can be an
invaluable component of competent, quality
representation, but will always be limited
by it's second-hand nature. The conclusions
reached through case review are always
predicated upon the specifics of the
documents reviewed. Whenever possible, the
stronger position will always reflect the
expert's firsthand, impartial evaluation of