Ottawa Citizen
Friday, September 21, 2001

Psychologists make a bundle while family courts fiddle

Dave Brown
The Ottawa Citizen

That family courts generate business for psychology has been a theme of many of these columns, but a transcript popped up recently that would be funny, were it not an example of how much damage is being done in the fertile court fields where psychologists graze.

The judgment from the Supreme Court of British Columbia is dated Aug. 17. Take the sterile language of the court and turn it into column style, and one can track how the psychology field generates business for itself.

It started Aug. 11, 1999, when Oprah Winfrey aired a show titled: "Would you know if your kids were being sexually abused?" Her guest was a psychologist who offered a list of things to look for, including changes in behaviour. In Vancouver, a mother of three young daughters was watching that show, and concluded her husband was abusing the girls. He offered to take all and any tests to prove he could never do such a terrible thing. The tests for the most part generated money for the readers of the headbone.

Normal things became embarrassing studies. Mother said she noticed the father had an erection while playing with the girls. Father said it was morning and his need to urinate caused that reaction.

Experts filed into court to discuss whether that was a valid explanation. Any male in the courtroom could have answered that question, but family courts trust only experts, and the experts said yes, that happens to healthy males. "Quite common," was the court's conclusion.

The court ordered an evaluation of the children, and the job was turned over to a psychologist who also interviewed the plaintiff (mother). In the course of this it was recommended the father "would benefit from psychotherapy or counselling, that was oriented towards assisting him in coping with his current stresses and the impact of his marital separation."

Translation: The poor man needs the help of psychologists to repair the damage being done by other psychologists.

A little further into the transcript we find father recommended for "stress management and relaxation training." More work for more headboners.

The court felt it would benefit from a "custody and access evaluation," so another mind-reader was assigned to assess the family as a unit.

The children were turned over to other experts for "play therapy." A specialist hired by the plaintiff told the court the children's "disclosures," made only to the mother and reported by her, remained "ambivalent." He said further assessment was needed to determine whether the father was a risk to the children.

The judge considered it in the father's favour that the girls wanted to sleep over at his new home. The court wandered further into the hows and whys of childhood masturbation. The judge said the claims of abuse were "unlikely."

One expert mind-reader recommended that the court order the parents not to discuss the case with the children "without the presence of a professional." There's no end in sight.

The court's conclusion was the parents were to share custody, but the children will reside with mother. Anybody who thinks I have misinterpreted the facts can feel free to check it out. Go to the B.C. court Web site and look up docket E000595.

Fancy that

While wandering around B.C. newspaper files another strange court story popped up. It appeared in the Vancouver Sun Feb. 1, headlined: "Porn industry mom wins custody."

Father petitioned the court for custody of his six-year-old son, based on claims the mother was in the sex trade. She runs a massage parlour and admitted to the court she indulged in sex acts, "but not intercourse." She has her own Web site featuring pictures of herself in lewd and suggestive poses. The pictures were taken by her new boyfriend.

Father thought it was unacceptable that the boy was often left in care of persons who worked in the sex trade.

Mother said father was a dangerous man who once tried to run her down with his car when she was on her motorcycle. The court said it did not believe that claim.

Once again the court relied on psychology reports. A headboner reported the boy's attachment to the mother was stronger than to the father. Mother retained custody.

Dave Brown is the Citizen's senior editor. Send e-mail to dbrown@thecitizen.southam.ca Read previous columns by Dave Brown at www.ottawacitizen.com .

© Copyright 2001 The Ottawa Citizen