The Eye of the Beholder: Professional Opinions about the Best Interests of a Child

(2011) Family Court Review, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 760-775 (Peer-reviewed).

Full text online, SSRN:

This paper is is based on my LL.M thesis, which I successfully defended on June 10, 2009.  The Below, please find short and long versions of the thesis, as well as a 15 minute video presentation.

The Eye of the Beholder from Noel Semple on Vimeo.

Thesis (30k words)

Short Version (8500 words)

For an even shorter description, please click here:

When parents separate and cannot agree about parenting arrangements for their children, a state-authorized neutral party must resolve the dispute.  Two groups of professionals perform this function in many western jurisdictions.  The first consists of judges, who are entrusted with the ultimate decision-making authority.  The second consists of custody and access assessors, who are generally psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers and who make recommendations about parenting arrangements based on an investigatory procedure.

This thesis compares the processes by which these two groups of professionals make the decisions, and analyzes the interface between them.  It then presents the results of empirical research about the extent to which Ontario judges accept custody and access recommendations from social worker assessors employed by Ontario’s Office of the Children’s Lawyer.  The central finding was that the judges and assessors agreed only about half of the time. Possible explanations for this finding are explored, and its significance is analyzed in the context of the existing literature.

15 Minute Video Presentation

Thesis Version (30,000 words)

Short Version (8500 words)