In addition to the role of the forensic psychiatrist in criminal cases, the specially trained professionals also play an important role in evaluating the children and adults involved in a court case. In cases involving child custody, evaluations are performed to determine the parenting capacity of each parent, in order to determine the custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. In criminal cases involving juveniles, a forensic child & adolescent psychiatrist will provide expert witness testimony about the child’s diagnosis, potential for treatment, whether they can be tried as an adult, and whether there is a high risk for dangerous behavior in the future.
Child forensic evaluations are also performed by forensic psychiatrists in cases of civil litigation. They may assess the type and extent of psychiatric damages the child has sustained from personal injuries, loss of a parent or other close family member, or from exposure to toxins. Only a few forensic psychiatric experts exist in the US with training and board certification in both areas of subspecialty of psychiatry: forensic; and adolescent and child psychiatry.
Thus the issues that forensic child and adolescent psychiatrists focus on those medical-legal behavioral issues involving children, as well as those that arise in family law, juvenile adjudication and personal injury. Only those professionals with a deep understanding of child psychological development, child and adolescent psychiatry and forensic psychiatry will be able to effectively diagnose the conditions of children and adolescents involved in legal matters and be of maximum assistance to their legal advocates.