Member Spotlight: Dr. Phil Stahl

Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D., ABPP (Forensic)Phil Professional Photo 2007

Forensic Psychologist, Parenting After Divorce Director, Forensic Programs, Steve Frankel Group, LLC


Stahl and Stahl, the dynamic father-daughter team, bring a robust perspective to family and dependency court. The combination of a board-certified forensic psychologist and an attorney allows for understanding the full scope of the issues facing children and families.

Phil And Rebecca With Their Book 2018
Co-authors, Stahl and Stahl

Both Stahls are proud Wolverines who have forged careers advocating for the well-being of children in the legal arena. Phil Stahl “loves to testify in court!” and is an expert witness and consultant working with attorneys and the courts, as he performs custody evaluations, writes books and speaks at conferences. His passion is to educate and collaborate globally on the commonalities of human experience navigating family law in times of divorce. Phil’s daughter, Rebecca M. Stahl, is an attorney who has worked at the Children’s Law Center of California in Los Angeles County and the Pima County (Arizona) Office of Children’s Counsel as a lawyer for children in family law cases. Rebecca was also on the Board of the Michigan Alumni Club of Tucson. The Stahls’ careers have frequently overlapped worldwide, but Phil’s proudest professional moment was co-authoring, Representing Children in Dependency and Family Court:  Beyond the Law with Rebecca.

After growing up in Detroit, Phil pivoted from pursuing chemistry to psychology as an undergrad at UM. After getting his Master’s in clinical psychology at Eastern Michigan University, he began working as a therapist for children, guiding them along the path to both having and maintaining emotional health and well-being. Around 1980, the state of Michigan family laws changed to allow for joint custody, and Phil not only researched this topic in his doctoral thesis at Michigan, but traversed Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties working with families in the family court system and working with foster children and parents in conjunction with Detroit Social Services through his private practice. His first book was titled, Children on Consignment (1987) to help foster parents understand the needs of foster children. He later transitioned to work solely in the family courts, working on custody evaluations when parents could not agree on how to care for their children after divorce. His most recent book in that area, Conducting Child Custody Evaluations:  From Basic to Complex Issues (2010), brought focus to the many complex issues Phil deals with in family courts. There is a point in each of our stories (for those who are reading this) when we headed west from Ann Arbor and Detroit. As one of our fellow Wolverines in Paradise, Phil is no exception. Phil first moved to Northern California in 1987 and began working in the East Bay fulfilling many roles, including therapist, consultant, expert witness, and educator. After leaving California for a few years, he recently moved here to San Diego, to bask in “the best weather in the world.”

Phil Paragliding In New Zealand 2011
Paragliding in New Zealand

Early in his career, Phil joined the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and later joined the AFCC Board of Directors. A former AFCC Executive Director used to say, “join AFCC and see the world.” And see the world he has! He has led workshops throughout North America, as well as in New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, and various countries in Europe. His favorite spot amongst all his travels is Australia. He even joined the Alumni Club of Australia and New Zealand when he was spending a sabbatical from work in Melbourne in 2018.

Hailing from Detroit, Phil is very comfortable in diverse, multi-cultural settings. He went to an urban high school (Cass Tech). In 1969, he was a proud supporter of the Black Action Movement at UM, an initiative designed to encourage an increase in the black student population.

In his early Michigan days, he took a leadership class, and he has gone from the Diag to the podium, where he teaches internationally on topics of cognitive, cultural, and implicit biases and issues related to family law. Rebecca has helped him understand the impact(s) of trauma in his court-related work. Phil has taught professionals about psychological issues working at the National Judicial College, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, various state judicial programs, and even military programs.

Phil has observed that within the Western world, there is a lot of commonality amongst family laws, but with four (4) major differences:

  • Cultural nuances are unique to a region or country.
  • The US has 50 different statutory schemes, whereas most other countries have uniform statutes for the country.
  • Gun related domestic violence incidents are unique to the US. Other countries struggle against various forms of abuse, however, these problems rarely include gun killings.
  • There are disparities between countries in what resources are provided for assessment, the number of judges, and funding of divorce research. The US does comparatively very little funding of divorce research.
Phil At Royal Melbourne Golf Course 2018
Royal Melbourne Golf Course

From his position as head librarian at Bursley Hall to his role as an author, Phil looks back fondly on his Michigan memories, such as Bo’s first year when he beat Ohio State in Ann Arbor and Woody Hayes was being Woody on the sidelines. Recently settled in San Diego, Phil remains an avid supporter of MI athletics and the Detroit Red Wings.

If you are interested in learning more about custody litigation, check out Dr. Stahl’s and Dr. Robert Simon’s 2nd Edition of their best-selling book from The American Bar Association Section of Family Law titled Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation:  A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony.

Phil can be reached at his website, and by email at [email protected].

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