William G. Austin, Ph.D. ACCS dba

Austin Child Custody Services dba

(303) 670-6767 voice   (303) 217-8990 fax
Office: 710 Kipling, Ste. 306, Lakewood, CO 80215
William G. Austin, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
P.O. Box 3939
Evergreen, CO 80437
Email: wgaustinphd2@yahoo.com
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Relocation and Child Custody Evaluation

One of the most difficult situations facing both parents and children after separation and divorce is when one parent wants to relocate to a distant community. These are called relocation cases. America historically is a very mobile society. Residential moves are very common among parents after divorce. Parents want to pursue new opportunities for jobs or education. After divorce a parent may want to return to their home community where parents and extended family live. Courts recognize this reality about relocation. The other parent usually opposes the child moving because it naturally makes it very difficult to stay meaningfully involved with the child and sustain a quality parent-child relationship. This is especially true when the moving parent wants to relocate with a very young child. The non-moving parent usually feels he or she will be left out of the child's life. Courts grapple with this relocation dilemma where a parent has a constitutional right to travel and pursue opportunities, but the other parent has a constitutional right to be involved with the child. States have different legal standards and burdens of proof that apply to relocation cases. Even in those few states where there is a presumption that a residential parent can move with the child, case law emphasizes the need for an individualized determination of the best interests of the child. These cases are very fact-driven and call for a thorough investigation of the family's context and circumstances. It is common for the parties in dispute to request a child custody or parental responsibility evaluation in relocation cases.
 
Dr. Austin developed a forensic psychology model for evaluating the child custody relocation case. The relocation risk assessment model was published in 2000 and revised in 2008. It is a research-based actuarial model. Copies of the articles and other publications on relocation are available on the website. One article summarizes the research on the effects of relocation on children of divorce. A 2010 book chapter addresses the difficult issues involved in relocation concerning very young children. The issue of gatekeeping, or the ability of a moving parent to support the other parent-child relationship is addressed in the 2008 article. Dr. Austin has conducted many professional workshops on how to evaluate the relocation case. The relocation model is widely used by evaluators across the country. Evaluators report that courts find the model very useful for untangling the issues involved in relocation. Dr. Austin's publications also emphasize the need for careful investigation for describing the relative advantages and disadvantages to the child and family associated with relocating versus staying in the home community, possibly with a change in custody if the parent had to move without the child. The evaluator needs to gather sufficient data to allow the court to visualize what life would be like for the child living in the new community with the moving parent versus living in the home community with the nonmoving parent. If relocation is denied by the child, then the parent who desires to relocate may or may actually move. Courts usually cannot consider this factor before rendering a decision. There are many practical and logistical considerations associated with long distance parenting arrangements - time, travel, cost, getting time off work. How to craft long distance parenting plans are discussed in the publications.

When relocation is an issue, Dr. Austin often is appointed to conduct a court-ordered child custody/parental responsibility evaluation. He is available to conduct an objective work product review of an evaluator's report and evaluation. He often provides consultation and expert testimony as a reviewer if the evaluation has serious deficiencies. When giving testimony as a review, Dr. Austin usually combines instructional testimony on relocation by describing the risk assessment model, research, and issues involved in long distance parenting.
Dr. Austin often provides instructional or educational expert testimony on relocation research, issues, and his forensic model when there has not been a child custody evaluation. He may respond to hypothetical questions that applies the relocation risk assessment model to a fact pattern. Courts usually find this testimony helpful. Dr. Austin has testified and many different states in this capacity as an expert witness.

Publications and Workshops

Austin, W. G. (2010). Relocation and forensic mental health evaluation in Colorado: Issues involving very young children. In R. M. Smith (Ed.), The role of the child and family investigator and the child’s legal representative in Colorado. Denver: Colorado Bar Association (pp. C-1 – C-23). Denver: Colorado Bar Association.

Austin, W. G. (2009). The child and family investigator's evaluation for the relocation case. In R. M. Smith (Ed.), The role of the child and family investigator and the child’s legal representative in Colorado (pp. C9-1 – C9-24). Denver: Colorado Bar Association.

Workshops presented:

Relocation, Very Young Children and Child Custody Evaluation: Forensic Evaluation, Research, and Ethical Considerations, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts 48th Annual Conference: Research, Policy and Practice in Family Courts: What’s Gender Got to do with it? Orlando, Florida, June 1-4, 2011 (with Jonathan W. Gould, Ph.D., Psy.D. & Pamela Ludolph, Ph.D.).

Relocation and Forensic Mental Health Evaluation in Colorado: Issues involving Very Young Children. Invited lecture, Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, Family Law Section, December 14, 2010, Denver, CO.

Relocation and Forensic Mental Health Evaluation in Colorado: Issues involving Very Young Children. Continuing Legal Education, Colorado Bar Association, Denver, August 31, 2010.

Relocation, Custody Evaluation, and the Very Young Child: Attachment and Risk Assessment, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, 46th Annual Conference: Children, Courts and Custody: Back to the Future or Full Steam Ahead? New Orleans, May 29, 2009 (with S. Margaret Lee, Ph.D. and Jeff Atkinson, J.D.)

Child Custody Evaluation and Relocation: Legal and Psychological Perspectives. Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, 46th Annual Conference: Children, Courts and Custody: Back to the Future or Full Steam Ahead? New Orleans, May 29, 2009 (with Jeff Atkinson, J.D. and S. Margaret Lee, Ph.D.) 

Relocation Publications:
Austin, W. G. (2008). Relocation, Research, and Forensic Evaluation: Part II: Research in Support of the Reloacation Risk Assessment Model In PDF format
Austin, W. G. (2008). Relocation, Research, and Forensic Evaluation, Part I: Effects of Residentail Mobility on Children of Divorce In PDF format.
A Forensic Psychology Model of Risk Assessment for Child Custody Reloacation Law In PDF format
Relocation Law and the Threshold of Harm: Integrating Legan and Behavioral Perspectives In PDF format
Risk Reduction Interventions in the Child Custody Relocation Case In PDF format
Relocation with Very Young Children, emphasis on CO In PDF format
Relocation and Long Distance Parenting Plans In PDF format
Relocation Evaluation_CO_2005 In PDF format
Relocation Evaluation_CO_2006 In PDF format
Relocation Evaluation_CO_2007 In PDF format
Relocation Evaluation_CO_2009 In PDF format
Relocation & Gatekeeping, 2012 In PDF format
Child Custody Evaluation and Relocation: Part I, 2015 In PDF format
Child Custody Evaluation and Relocation: Part II, 2015 In PDF format
Child Custody Evaluation and Relocation: Part III, 2016 in PDF format

Home · Attorney Services · Relocation & Child Custody Evaluation · Domestic Violence · Parental Gatekeeping and Alienation

Evaluation Services · Forensic Methodology · Curriculum Vitae · Work Product Review Service · Brief-Focused PRE

Service Agreements · Parenting Coordinator/Decision Maker · Peer Consultation Services · Fees for Services

Colleague Case Consultation - Custody Evaluation