Wisdom from Phil Stahl about Families and Career

Wisdom from Phil Stahl about Families and Career

 

In this latest edition of the Australian Family & Fertility Law Podcast, Stephen Page talks with Dr. Philip Stahl, Director of Parenting After Divorce and a licensed psychologist based out of San Diego, California, about lessons in family law and career.

Transcript

Intro: You’re listening to the Australian Family and Fertility Law podcast. Here’s your host, Stephen Page.

Stephen Page: Well, welcome, everyone. Thank you for listening today to me, Stephen Page on Australian Family Law and Fertility Law podcast. And I’m Stephen Page, solicitor with Page Proven, solicitors in Brisbane. And today I’m joined by Dr. Phil Stahl. Despite his title, he is not a medical doctor. He is a psychologist and is one of America’s leading custody evaluators. Welcome, Phil.

Phil Stahl: Well, good day, mate. It’s always great to see you and to feel like I’m back in Australia, even though I’m sitting in San Diego at the moment in the US. But I love all of my Aussie mates and you’re one of them.

SP: Thank you.

PS: Thank you for having me.

SP: So I’m always curious about how someone becomes a custody evaluator, or as we might say in Australia, a family report writer, someone who writes reports, what is now the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia about families and makes evaluations about what is in a child or children’s best interests or indeed critiques those reports. So how did you end up as a family report writer or custody evaluator, I should say.

PS: Well, it started really in the late 1970s, early 80s. I was working at a child guidance clinic doing therapy with kids. And I thought that maybe I’d be doing therapy with kids or families as a psychologist kind of forever. And I hadn’t got a topic to do a doctoral dissertation to get my PhD. It was the University of Michigan and Michigan had just changed their laws to allow for joint custody for shared parenting in the early 80s. And I decided to study the attitudes and beliefs of judges, lawyers, psychologists, and families about joint custody and what they thought of it. That was my dissertation. That was my research. And it was interesting what I found in the early 80s, judges said it would never work. The moms and dads could never agree on anything. So can’t have joint custody. Lawyers thought it would never work. Moms and dads would never agree. Psychologists said it would never work. And the few families I found that were practising joint custody said it was wonderful. 

Until I lose my memory, I’ll always remember this ten-year old kid who said to me, if I could recommend what my friends should do or other kids should do if their parents get divorced, it would be to have them share custody because it was so wonderful.

SP: Yes. So what you discovered at that point was the perceived wisdom of those who were seen to be gatekeepers, experts in the system. Judges, family lawyers, and psychologists didn’t add up to the experience of some, at least the children.

PS: Well, part of that was because of their experience, their experience with very high conflict families. And this ten-year old was in low conflict family. So it makes sense to seamlessly go back and forth between mum’s house and dad’s house and spend relatively equal time with both of them. And the professionals involved were really doing the opposite. 

They were seeing the high conflict, people who couldn’t agree on whether the lights are on in the room, that kind of thing. And that’s what drew me into the field of divorce and family law. And some of the psychologists I interviewed were doing custody evaluations are actually more like your family report writing in Australia. They work for a Court clinic and did what I call brief focused evaluations, what I call today brief focused evaluations. And they really were trying to get a sense of what might be in children’s best interest but not spend too much time doing it. And from that, I actually started working at that Court clinic with one of my colleagues who I interviewed for this research and started doing custody evaluations, both at the Court clinic and in my private practise.

And then I moved to California

SP: Before the move to California, one thing that you just raised was something very interesting, that perception by judges, lawyers, psychologists are seeing a high conflict cases. And we have the same issue here, that when you look at the numbers, the vast majority of families don’t go anywhere near the court. They resolve matters informally or they resolve matters through principally community based mediation, such as family relationship centres. And then it’s only a very relatively small number of matters that end up in the court, and those matters, often understandably, are the most conflictual, got the most problems. And so the views of professionals can obviously be skewed by that. It was something I observed a long time ago, that there was this assumption that all methods are difficult and litigated medicine can certainly be very difficult. But it’s funny seeing in practise how many parents resolve matters without going anywhere near the courtroom.

PS: Well, it’s interesting you say that, Stephen, one of the things that happened around 1980, also in the US was California developed mandatory mediation. And through mediation, absolutely, what you’d find and then it’s mediation spread slowly, tends to go on both coasts simultaneously. And then in the middle of the US, in the middle of Australia, you got the Outback, but the US is populated throughout. And what was interesting is that with mandatory mediation and with the opportunities for mediation, even in the States where it’s not mandatory, you’re absolutely right. I think the numbers at one time, whereas much as 90-95% of families were settling cases without needing a judge to do anything other than rubber stamp their agreement, I’ve been divorced and remarried. When I got divorced, my former wife and I, we worked out our agreement with one lawyer. I didn’t have a lawyer, my former wife did. And we hammered out an agreement for what to do with the kids and what to do with money. And we had the judge sign it. That’s all it took. And the majority of cases are still like that. It’s no longer like the 90%. And I don’t know if you’re paying attention to American politics. I know you just had your election over the weekend, but our politics have become so polarised in the US, and families are also equally polarised. So the amount of conflict has gone up from maybe 10% high conflict. I think it’s more like 20% now, and maybe another 20% is high-medium conflict. So it takes a lot of effort to get those numbers of families to try to resolve things. And the very high conflict folks end up with reports, report writers and custody evaluations and judges having to make decisions. And it’s grown over the years, at least in the US. I don’t know those numbers in Australia.

SP: I think what we’re looking at was over 80% of matters where there’s been some kind of intervention. They were resolved through mediation and was something like 20%. But I think that even overstates it, that ended up in the court system. But if we go back about 20 years ago, only 3% of matters would have to resolve a trial to have a judge make a determination of the medicine court, those numbers have gone up to 5%. But I think proportionately, the numbers actually going to court are lower. And that’s because of the general requirement to undertake mediation before going to court. Yeah.

PS: That’s still the case in California. I don’t know about other parts of the US as much because I lived in Arizona before, but now I’m back in California, and because of mandatory mediation, because there’s a culture of trying to settle cases, only certain cases end up going to trial. We could talk about that later. I do want to say something else about when I was back in Michigan though working as a psychologist. Another thing I did when I worked as a psychologist is we have a foster care system where kids who are raised by parents with abuse or neglect go into foster care. And I did a lot of evaluations of kids in foster care. And that, again, got me more interested in doing evaluations than doing therapy because I saw at the front line how evaluations would be useful. And also you’re only working with people a short period of time, and then you get a new batch of people coming in and a new batch of people. And I found for me that was more enjoyable than sitting in an office doing therapy with 20 clients a week and then seeing the same 20 clients the following week and the same 20, you get the idea? 20 clients the following week.

It wasn’t as much variety and didn’t have as much pleasure for me. And like I said, the idea of trying to help people at the front lines when I could help more kids that way, more kids, more families. And that’s really why I became a psychologist, was the idea of trying to help kids.

SP: When you were in Michigan, the Court clinic that you’re involved with. If I used your language right, and I’ve probably got it wrong, limited involved. And the theory about doing family reports here has been to obtain a snapshot, much like a camera taking a shot of the family at a particular time and then be able to provide an assessment and recommendations. But that’s often been criticised as an approach because there are different dynamics in play at any one time. So the criticism that’s been made has been that it’s not always accurate doing it that way. Do you have any thoughts?

PS: I think it’s a valid criticism. I think that there’s clearly an effort to improve everywhere, and I’m very fortunate we’ll get to this later, but very fortunate I get to teach and speak and meet people all over the country, over the world, I mean, including my wonderful mates in Australia. And what happens is there’s an effort to improve the quality, but because of budgets, because of resources, because of there’s so many families, compared to the number of people doing this work, we often don’t provide enough time to the family to really engage in a longer snapshot. So rather than having it be a snapshot of the narrow frame of time, it’s more like a movie, if you will, over a couple of months even, where we can get a better feel for the variances and nuances in how children relate with their parents, how parents relate with each other, how they think about their kids and their kids’ needs, how they demonstrate their ability to be parents. And then when you throw in major challenging topics like domestic violence, children who refuse contact with a parent, sometimes called alienation, when you throw in relocation, when one parent wants to move, in your case, you’re in Brisbane and suppose one of them mum wants to move down to Melbourne, whatever the reason and where’s the kids going to be, how are they going to work that out? When you throw in mental health problems, when you throw in substance abuse problems, snapshots don’t really work. We need more time to invest in the family and studying the family to help understand what’s needed. And one of the differences I’ve seen in the US versus Australia is your reports of the family report writers tend to be more of like the brief focus evaluations that I used to do with the Court clinic, rather than the comprehensive evaluations that I might do or my colleagues might do here in the States. But I recognise complex custody evaluations that take time, cost more. Some people don’t have the capacity to do it, and even then, they don’t ask the necessary questions. They get the necessary depth of understanding to have a foundation for making those kinds of conclusions and recommendations about the family and about the best interests of children. So I think the criticisms all across the board are justified criticisms. And over the years, I’ve seen some remarkably wonderful evaluations done by my colleagues and peers and quite frankly, a lot of junk out there that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

And that’s not my line. That’s what a judge said in a report that literally was 140 some pages long in Southern California County.

SP: I had to read that 140 pages.

PS: Yeah, they spent a lot of time, but it wasn’t worth the paper was printed on the judge.

SP: You’re talking about resources and money and time, the time of report writers. I think something that I was struck by last year was, as you know, I do a bit of surrogacy work. And in a couple of our States, what’s required by the law after the child has been born is to have an evaluation of whether it’s in the best interests of the child to be with the intended parents. And this is, again, a snapshot process because, well, you can’t really assess the child’s wishes because this is a baby we’re talking about. But one of the things that it’s a low conflict case because everyone’s happy about the outcome. Typically, when these assessments have been done, because you can only normally get an order when it’s with the consent of all the parties. So they’ve got to be of a positive frame of mind when they’re being done. But what invariably happens with those reports is that there’s a home visit, the expert comes into the family’s phone and has a look. And why it struck me last year was I had a family report undertaken where the family report writer, again with babies and a highly conflictual case, came into the family’s home and saw the babies.

I can’t remember the last time otherwise that I’ve had a home visit. It’s always a case of the children and the parents having to go to someone’s office in a sterile environment of someone’s office to carry out an assessment and not actually seeing the kids where they live in their home environment. And you have to assume everyone’s going to be the parents are going to make sure that they spruce up the house. It looks remarkably tidy, and they put on their Sunday bed store there about the report writer. But nevertheless, it really struck me that what I used to see as common practise 30 years ago of home visits. It’s really as scarce as hence teeth now.

PS: It’s funny you talk about a couple of things there. One of them is that the idea of home visits versus office visits, there’s no standard of care, if you will, anywhere for that kind of assessment. I like to do home visits and go into the home and see the child in her natural environment. And certainly with babies, it’s the only way to do it. As far as I’m concerned, our kids under the age of about four, because that’s the only way you can see them and enjoy them and enjoy the pleasure of seeing them with their parents and all that. So that’s one of the things in a sterile environment of an office might be the cause of something problematic that you’re seeing as opposed to in the home. The second piece about the sprucing up the home for with their Sunday best idea. It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t do that and how chaotic things are in the home visit. And if you can imagine when they’re chaotic in a home visit, how much more chaotic it might be when I’m not there, right? If that’s the best they can do, is it’s kind of chaos.

But I don’t always know what to make of it. Because, again, the whole idea is what’s the purpose? If the purpose is for your surrogacy cases, you just want to make sure that the home environment is a reasonable environment, that it looks like there’s a decent bond developing. Because when there are babies, you can’t assess the bond. Right? You just simply cannot assess attachment and bond. You can just get a picture. That’s really what the snapshot is. What is it today? And projecting that out three years, five years, 18 years is impossible, but we do it. And the idea that if it looks okay today, the likelihood is they’re good enough parents, and that’s all you’re asking for. But if we’re doing it for the purpose of a custody evaluation of a family law dispute, where you’re comparing mum, you’re comparing dad, you’re comparing the observations of should these parents share custody 50-50, should they do it in some other kind of plan? What type of plan? Then you need the nuances. And that’s a different challenge.

So what I always do after the home visit is I engage parents in an interview again after it where I say, “Help me understand what I learned, what I saw during the home visit.”

What did you see? Tell me what you saw. Then I might have a few hypotheses. I was wondering when Johnny did X and Y. You seem to ignore it. What were you thinking when you ignored that? Or I might even start by saying, did you see Johnny do X and Y? Do you remember seeing that? Help me understand why you would ignore it, to get them to talk about the parenting issues that maybe are very very very very relevant for the kind of family assessments I do. But I got to tell you one more thing about it and I’ll turn it back to you. Ten years ago, 20 years ago, I’ve been doing this almost 40 years, but ten to 20 years ago even, I wouldn’t have asked those questions. It’s only as I’ve begun to critique other people’s work that I’ve begun to realise how important those kinds of questions are in doing our work. And as I teach this stuff too.

SP: Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head in one respect, and that is?

PS: I hope so.

SP: Well, in several respects, I should say. But I meant this, that it’s a case of continuing to learn, isn’t it? But you just haven’t learned whatever you learned 20, 30, 40 years ago and gone with that. Every day is a day where you might pick up stuff that someone else has done and it’s made you think, oh, that’s a good idea, or that makes me reflect and think about, am I doing it the best way that I can do it? Is there a better way that I can approach this problem?

PS: Absolutely. One of the advantages I have is a delightful wife who you’re lucky enough to know. And when I write my reports, my reports in the cases, when I do an evaluation, she proofreads them because you need another set of eyes to make sure the grammar is right, the spelling is right, it makes sense, all those kinds of things. But sometimes she’ll look at me and say, how could you write this? What would you do if you were reading somebody else’s report? And they said such and such and such. And I said, thank you. And she’s really good at that because she knows how I do the critiquing and how important it is to be mindful myself that someone might be critiquing my work. And I want to be doing my own critique of my own work. So that helps me in my report writing. So tell her I plugged her on this podcast.

SP: Absolutely. So we got to well, you’re in Michigan and you moved to California. And then sadly, I moved to sideways, and we kept going. But it’s been 70 minutes.

PS: I’m going to take us back to Michigan one more minute.

SP: Sure.

PS: There’s another thing that happened when I was in Michigan, and I wrote my first book when I was there. And I actually traversed living in Michigan and living in California. But I started the process when I was in Michigan. It was a book about foster parenting. It was written for foster parents. It was actually called Children on Consignment, which I thought the title was way more remarkable than the book itself. But the idea being that parents, foster parents have kids in their home for maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a year, maybe they stayed longer and they adopt them. But you never know. Right? Because if the birth parents get their act together, those kids go home. So that’s why they’re titled Children on Consignment. But the idea of writing was born in that process. The idea of writing books and articles was born in that process. So then I moved to California and I continued what I was doing, being a consultant to foster care agencies, doing some therapy and starting to pick up on doing family evaluations as well. And within about three years of being there, I was already involved in an association called Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

And I was a member back in the 80s when I realised that they had a good journal and the interprofessional field is what I loved way more than going to psychology conferences. I like going to these conferences of judges, lawyers and evaluators and researchers. And the executive director at the time said

SP: I’ll just stop you there. 

PS: Let me finish this one time, okay?

SP: Yeah, sure.

PS: She said, join AFCC and see the world. And that has always been with me. So you’re going to ask me something.

SP: Why did you like under those conferences as opposed to psychology conferences?

PS: Psychology conferences with everybody being psychologists, they all thought the same way, they all addressed each other as Dr. so and so. They were formal, they weren’t fun, and AFCC was the opposite. First of all, being interdisciplinary, I learned from lawyers, I learned from judges, I learned from other evaluators and researchers and all that, and they were also informal and they also had a hospitality room every night where you would meet and maybe with a glass of wine in your hand you would talk about whatever is the important things of the day. And I learned so much from AFCC. And then the thought of maybe I’ll see the world was in the background of my mind as well. And then I got very active. I was on their board of directors for six years in the 90s and again in 2000s. I was very involved in the organisation, and I made some of my best professional friends and personal friends as a result of my membership in AFCC, including a lot of my Aussie friends as well. And in fact, almost all of them were directly from that. But at the end of the day, to your point about we don’t do things the same way ten years later because we learned so much.

I’ve learned so much through my participation in these conferences, as well as the fun and the friends and all the rest. But then I had an opportunity to write another book and I wrote a book about custody evaluations because I met the editor of the publishing company through AFCC, and I think that helped to springboard my career as a custody evaluator. And I’ve written several other books associated with custody evaluations over the years directly as a result of the opportunities and what I’ve learned. And I want to give back and try and teach what I’ve learned.

SP: I think I came across your trusty evaluation book at Barnes and Noble in New York, where to my amazement, unlike any other bookshop I’d seen, there was a section on family law and related issues. It wasn’t so good for my credit card, but it was marvellous going and buying all these books and then having to haul them home on the plane. Because for me it was an outpouring of knowledge which you go to any other bookshop, but of course don’t see stuff like that. It was just that particular bookshop had all these books. Now, of course, if you search hard enough, you can find them on Amazon or elsewhere online. But in those days, that wasn’t possible. And interesting stuff. And from my point of view, of course, when you’re an Australian lawyer, you go to Australian law conferences and you get your view of the world, I suppose building by the views of other Australian lawyers at those conferences and going into the wider world, seeing information, knowledge from other sources than just from here — enlightening because you say, oh, we’re actually what I had assumed was going to the United States and talking to colleagues in the United States, I had assumed ahead of time the United States was ahead of Australia in every respect.

And what I discovered in some ways, yes, but other ways about the same and in other ways in some parts way behind. It’s a bit of a mixed report, and it’s not from an Australian perspective. We naturally assume this trend or whatever it is, has come from the United States. Therefore, the US is bigger and better, but it’s very much mixed bag or describe it as and that makes it interesting to see how innovation happens. And then when it’s held back, why is it held back and see the cultural issues.

PS: Because I think it goes both ways. Because when I started to travel the world and not just personally, when I travel the world personally, I learned and I like different cultures and I like seeing things and I like architecture and cities and whatever I’m looking at as I started to do that professionally, teaching in Hong Kong, teaching in Singapore, coming to Australia, I’ve been lucky enough to be in Australia about ten times over the last 11-12 years, New Zealand and other countries, South Africa. What I find is some parts of the world do some of this stuff so much better than the US does. And the US does some things better than others. And I try and learn from everybody. I hate to do this and tell me if you want to shut me up, but what I’ve learned that you guys do so much better than Americans right now is having elections. We can’t even agree on who should vote. You make it mandatory to vote. We don’t teach civics to our kids. You make sure as much as possible every fifth grader can come to Parliament and see what the heck is going on in your government to get an enjoyment of government and you trust your government.

Americans aren’t trusting anybody anymore. And what we’ve seen in the last five years in the US and in the last two elections in Australia, the ability to make democracy work is humongous. And I would love to see America make democracy work again. That’s the next slogan. Not make America great again. Make democracy great again. Go on back to our work.

SP: I think we’ve been very privileged and you made me reflect that. About a week or so ago, I gave evidence to Queensland Parliament, which was carrying out the committee was carrying out an inquiry and that they were kind enough to ask me to give evidence. And I was held up getting there because there was a school group going through that very point that you were making. And I thought they were chatting a lot amongst themselves and then they realised they had to go up and watch Parliament. So they suddenly went quiet. I thought, Isn’t this wonderful that they have the opportunity to see politicians? I’m sure that they’d be all bored by it, but they realise it does exist and all the politicians do exist and why they exist.

PS: And I learned about it when I toured Parliament back when I was in Australia in 2018 for a sabbatical from work. So I was there for four months and my wife and I went to Canberra and we toured Parliament and we saw those school kids and I was asking questions, how common is this? And they said, every kid has got the opportunity to come here. Wow.

SP: Yeah. I think it’s important that kids see that. But why do you love doing what you do? You’ve somehow ended up from Michigan to California and moved from doing therapy to foster kids and then doing these custody evaluations. Why do you love them? You touched upon to a degree before that. You’re not seeing the same 20 people week in, week out. What gives you the thrill to wake up in the morning and think, well, this is what I do for a living. This is my passion.

PS: I am so grateful to have so many opportunities to do so many varied things. A, I love variety. That’s part of it. B, I love an aspect of it is teaching. I’ve never been a teacher, really, but I love teaching. So my writing is teaching. My testifying is teaching. My reports are teaching. I like the challenge of a puzzle and trying to understand this family and their nuances in the context of law and in the context of psychology and in the context of children’s best interests and put it all together in a way that hopefully makes sense and leads to positive outcome for children. I love travel and join AFCC see the world. I’ve blended all these things with my love of travel and then teaching and learning in other countries. You and I have been we met at an American Bar Association conference about, though, what, ten years ago or so?

SP: We’re both speakers.

PS: Yeah, we were both speakers at this one conference. We met, actually. Our spouses met first and then we met that same evening. But I love the opportunity to do those things. So it’s the combination of the variety, you can hear to my voice. That’s where my passion is. The combination of the variety helping families, learn, teach, write, speak at conferences and make wonderful friends the world over. What more could a person want? I am so grateful that I have these opportunities.

SP: Last week, I had the privilege of speaking again at South African Family Law conference, sadly, not in Cape Town, but like this, via Zoom. And before I spoke, there was a presentation by Nancy Zalusky Berg that you would know Nancy, and she was quite critical of the American system. She said that the US, as we know, is the only country that hasn’t signed up to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, unlike even Somalia, which has signed up alone, is the only country that hasn’t signed up. And she was in the view that unlike other places, that the voices of children are not heard in the United States in disputes between their parents that are seen as being a more apparent rights dispute and the judges often don’t want to hear from the children. Has your experience been like that? I just wonder if you’re doing custody evaluations. It says to me that one would hope that children are being listened to.

PS: Well, first of all, it saddens me that it’s understandable that the US has not signed on to the convention. I have a wonderful daughter, Rebecca, who is a lawyer, and she was in New Zealand studying that very thing, the voice of the child. And after the UN convention, how New Zealand particular, was trying to implement the voice of the child in family disputes. When issues came before the court for whatever reason involving children. And that was my first awareness of the UN Convention. And as she put it, when she was done with her project, the US and Somalia were the only two countries that didn’t sign on. And she said, Somalia doesn’t have a government. And I said, and we don’t have a functional government. And those are the reasons why those two countries. Now, apparently, Somalia has a government and our government is even less functional than before. But one of the major differences is and by the way, when President Obama was President, he wanted to push for that, but he had so many other things that were more important priority to him that he didn’t think, like universal health care, which the rest of the world takes for granted, and the US still fighting about things like that, that it took a lower priority and it never happened. So that’s the dysfunctionality of our government for things like that. But I will say that the other problem is Australia has a federal government, federal rules, federal rules of evidence for family law. Now, I recognise that WA does things a little bit different sometimes, but by and large, it’s federal. Singapore. It’s federal Hong Kong. It’s the entity of Hong Kong. Britain is federal. Right? We have 50 States, each one with its only own family laws, statute, case law, et cetera. And to think about managing something like the UN Convention on the Rights of Children when you have a 50 state system makes it very difficult to accomplish as well. So to answer your question, I’m going to sound like a psychologist. It depends the importance of the child’s voice. In Ohio, for example, judges routinely interview kids over age seven, eight or nine, something we don’t. They get training. And I know one of the judges I know very well is a good friend of mine, Denise McAuley. She helps teach judges about interviewing kids. She’s written about that in Ohio law journals and things like that.

California has a law that says when child is 14, their voice has to be heard. If the parent petitions for it, how it gets heard, maybe with a custody evaluator it may be by the judge. And again, it’s different. Georgia has similar laws, but you get my point. It depends state by state by state and by and large, judges in the US, I teach judges another very lucky thing I get to do. I’m on the faculty of the National Judicial College, and I’ve taught judges for going on 25 years now. And judges don’t like to interview kids. They don’t know how to interview kids, and they want to send them to people like us. But there is a recognition that the child’s voice should be heard. And most state statutes do have a when they have factors that determine how a judge should determine custody and parenting arrangements. One of the factors is usually the voice of the child, if the child is old enough and mature enough to state that voice. And if you think about the Hague convention on the voice of an adolescent and a mature adolescent to stay where they want to be, whether they want to go back to the home state or stay in the new environment, those statutes are similar in the voice of a mature adolescent, the mature child.

As a custody evaluator, I listen to all kids. How much weight I give it is dependent on that kid. And it’s always a voice, not necessarily a choice. And that’s usually the thinking in the US, but it’s the 50 states system as opposed to the federal system. Canada is another one with the federal system that make it different as well. And I only know all this because I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and learn all of these.

SP: Well, family report writers when I’ve talked to them here because I’m an independent children’s lawyer from time to time, as well as represent parties, parents have said to me that they always want to hear the voice of the parents, but one that they really think is important is to listen to the kids. That’s something that seems to be driving a lot of the family report writers the same.

PS: I worry about giving them too much choice, especially when they’re stuck in the middle of their parents’ conflicts, or if they’re more interested in which parents going to bite of a dog or let them drive a car or let them get away with doing too much homework or maybe even let them drink alcohol at twelve years old and things like that, I always want to know. I ask kids what they think and feel and all that but then I asked them and help me understand why you feel that way. Help me understand your mom’s position is different than that and why you reject that position. Because if we don’t do the depth of interviewing as independent children’s lawyers, as report writers or custody evaluators or as judges we only look at the iceberg, the tip of the iceberg, only what we see above the water and we know that the iceberg goes all the way deep in the ocean. Forget climate change but you get my point and I’m trying to get to the depth of the ocean rather than the tip of the iceberg and understanding things.

SP: Sure. Well, I think that’s probably a good place to finish today. Just forget global warming. You’re looking for the depth of the ocean, not the tip of the iceberg. I think that’s a good way of describing how family reports should be written or custody evaluation should be undertaken. Philip Stahl, thank you very much today for joining me on the Australian Family and Fertility Law Podcast. I’m Stephen Page. Thank you.

PS: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity as well.

Outro: Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate reaching out to stephen@pageprovan.com au.

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“I’m beautiful in my way ’cause God makes no mistakes I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way” Lady Gaga I am outraged at the steps by the Pope’s call to stop surrogacy and be critical of LGBTQIA+ people.  It is no surprise, but it still saddens me. On Monday 8 April… Read More »The Pope’s cruel take on surrogacy

Understanding the Financial Risks of Surrogacy in the US for Australian Parents

When Australians think of going to the US for surrogacy, they often think that the risk is the legal risk.  In particular, if they come from the ACT, New South Wales or Queensland (although they can also apply in the NT, SA and WA), they’re worried about whether they might be committing a criminal offence… Read More »Understanding the Financial Risks of Surrogacy in the US for Australian Parents

The Cost of Adoption in Australia

In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist and Multi-Award Winning Lawyer, Stephen Page reveals the cost of adoption in Australia.

Family Law Section Law Council of Australia Award
Member of Queensland law society
Family law Practitioners Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers - IAFL
Mediator Standards Board