A Handbook of Divorce and Custody: Forensic, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives

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Forensic Psychiatry A Handbook of Divorce and Custody: Forensic, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives Linda Gunsberg, Paul Hymowitz, editors. Hillsdale (NJ): The Analytic Press; 2005. 409 p. US$79.95.

Reviewer rating: Excellent

The seeds of this enthralling, if sobering, work were planted at a conference focusing on children and the law that was sponsored by the New York Freudian Society in November 1997. These seeds have germinated into a text imbued with a visceral concern for children. This primary interest in serving the perceived best interests of children, as critically filtered through the prisms of the respective contributors, reverberates unmistakably through the pages of this refreshingly candid and absorbingly intense book.

A key aspiration is to promote more comfortable professional comity between mental health professionals and their colleagues in law. As explained in the Preface, mental health professionals need to know more about the law, including law directly affecting child custody and divorce. Concomitantly, legal professionals need to be better informed about mental health-centric issues, including psychology as it appertains to child development and parenting. In fact, a strong sense and recognition of the immense professional value of good collaboration between legal and mental health professionals is firmly embedded in the text.

In terms of legal aspects, the perspicacious study of divorce and custody undertaken by the handbook's contributors, is notably confined to the nettlesome terrain of US law. Because the professional affiliations of the various contributors are uniformly American, this engagingly thoughtful primer lacks a multinational flavour. Moreover, even though the professional expertise of the various contributors extends to law as well as to clinical and forensic psychology, psychiatry, and social work, their collective expertise is skewed heavily toward mental health. The intellectual length and breadth of possible future editions might be augmented by a relatively broader representation, with more contributors drawn from the domain of law.

The foregoing caveats notwithstanding, it cannot be gainsaid that the book's contributors have cautiously and expertly probed the thorny terrain of US family law, with academic theory, research findings, and practical professional experiences all being important tools, and that the impressive result of their diligent spadework has been the unearthing of rich deposits of forensic-psychologic wealth. They have succeeded in illuminating many of the vexations affecting researchers and clinicians in these interfused fields. …