Child custody evaluations when there are allegations of child abuse and/or intimate partner violence - Robert Geffner

Download handouts (PDF, 893.26 KB)

This seminar was held on 11 April 2014 at Te Wharewaka, Wellington and on 16 April 2014 at Tāmaki Innovation Campus, University of Auckland.

The procedures, assessment, and ethical practice for child custody disputes when there are allegations of child maltreatment, intimate partner violence and/or exposure to domestic violence are discussed. Distinguishing between abuse, high conflict, alienation, estrangement, and rejection are presented. These are very difficult and complex cases from mental health/social work, criminal justice, and legal perspectives. Appropriate investigative techniques and common errors that often are made in these cases are presented. The myth of 'parental alienation syndrome' that is often alleged in these cases is discussed, along with ways to avoid common pitfalls. Recommendations for custody and visitation when abuse or high conflict has occurred are provided. Case examples are shown.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Be able differentiate between abuse, high conflict, alienation, estrangement, and rejection
  • Be able to identify two common mistakes made by custody evaluators in the context of intimate partner violence and child abuse
  • Better understand the dynamics of domestic violence and child abuse as they occur in child custody cases
  • Be able to list three procedures that should be followed in investigating child abuse or intimate partner violence in child custody cases


Robert Geffner, PhD is: Founding President of the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute in San Diego, CA; Founding President of Alliant International University’s (AIU) Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT); Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at AIU; Licensed Psychologist and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in California and Texas; Editor of five internationally disseminated journals; and former clinical director of a large private practice mental health clinic for over 15 years.  He has a Diplomate in Clinical Neuropsychology and is Board Certified in Couple & Family Psychology. Dr. Geffner is Co-Chair of the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan and President of the American Academy of Couple & Family Psychology.  He has been a researcher, trainer, practitioner, and consultant for more than 30 years.  He has served on national and state committees dealing with family violence, child abuse, forensic psychology, trauma, and family law. He has presented over 450 keynote addresses, plenaries, and workshops at international, national, and regional conferences. 

Additional material

Download Adverse Childhood Experiences - handouts from presentation for VIP Health Coordinators (PDF, 1.27 MB)

Organisations of interest

Family Violence & Sexual Abuse Institute, San Diego, CA

Website:   FVSAI brochure (PDF, 908.58 kB)

Institute on Violence Abuse and Trauma, San Diego, CA

Website:   IVAT brochure (PDF, 1.4 MB)

National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan

Website:   NPEIV brochure (PDF, 1.47 MB)