Forensic Psychiatry Service


David Bartholomew, M.D.
Assistant Professor
Co-Director, Forensic Psychiatry Service
Board Certified:  General Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatry

David Ziff, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Licensed Practicing Psychologist
Marriage and Family Therapist, LMFT
Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, LCAS

Jeff Childers, M.D. 
Assistant Professor
Fellowship trained in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Forensic Psychiatry

Abby Pressel, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor 

Susan Palmatier
Administrative Assistant


The Forensic Psychiatry Service includes the multidisciplinary faculty members listed above and advanced trainees in psychiatry, psychology, social work, and law. Cases are typically seen by teams of faculty and trainees. Trainees are under faculty supervision.

Services Offered:

We specialize in civil or criminal forensic mental health evaluations involving children, adolescents and families.  Our expertise also includes civil adult mental health issues.  The Service provides:

  • Competency Evaluations

  • Personal Injury Assessments

  • Juvenile Assessments

  • Disability Evaluations

  • Risk Assessments

  • Medical Malpractice Evaluations

  • Child Custody Evaluations

  • Psychiatric and Psychological Evaluations

In addition, the Service provides expert witness testimony, case reviews, and psychological consultation in court cases. Court Orders may be required for certain evaluations.  The Service does not accept cases where the primary concern is sexual or physical child abuse.  Sexual or physical abuse cases may be referred to the Program on Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment at 919-966-1760.

Referral/Contact Information:

Susan Palmatier
Department of Psychiatry
CB #7160
UNC Hospitals
Chapel Hill , NC 27599-7160
919-966-0012  (Phone)
919-966-6342  (Fax)  (E-mail

Payment Policies:

Child Custody Evaluations fees are due at the time of the first scheduled appointment.  Payment arrangements for other types of evaluations and services vary. 

Checks, certified checks and cash are accepted. Checks should be made payable to UNC Physicians and Associates. We do not accept credit cards, and we do not bill for insurance reimbursement. Reports are not released until all fees have been paid in full.

Appointment Time:

Appointments are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays, primarily in the afternoon. Most evaluation sessions last four hours unless otherwise arranged. Child Custody Evaluations generally require two evaluation sessions.

It is important that you arrive on time for your appointments. Clients and their attorneys will be notified as soon as a case is scheduled.

Missed Appointments and Cancellation Fees:

If an appointment needs to be rescheduled or canceled, please call our office as soon as possible and at least 24 hours in advance. Appointments not canceled 24 hours in advance will be charged $450 unless the cancellation is made necessary by an emergency. Payment for a missed appointment is due at the next session. It is probable that the evaluation may be delayed significantly if an appointment is canceled.


The type of case will determine what procedures will be used. Most cases involve interviews and psychological testing. Collateral information is collected depending on the legal questions.

For Child Custody Evaluations, approximately eight hours are spent with each family member in a variety of procedures. These procedures generally include interviews, psychological testing, parent-child interactions, parent-parent interactions and other psychological techniques. Collateral information often includes parenting references, mental health and medical records, and school records.


Records of service activities are maintained in our office. These records are confidential and will not be released without a Court Order when evaluations are performed under court order. Although we are located in the Department of Psychiatry, the Forensic Psychiatry Service’s records are not medical records. When an evaluation is performed at the client’s request, the Service will not release records without the client’s specific written permission. Strict confidentiality is upheld at all times, with the following exceptions:

  1. In cases of divorce, both parents have the right to information unless a Court Order specifically denies a parent information.
  2. If an evaluator suspects that child abuse has occurred, the law requires that it be reported to the authorities.
  3. If the evaluator believes the client presents a clear and imminent danger to himself/herself or to another person, the evaluator may notify appropriate others to prevent such occurrence.
  4. If it becomes necessary to contact an attorney or collection agency, then your name and identifying information about how to reach you, as well as the amount owed to the Service will be made available to these agencies.
  5. In legal proceedings there is no guarantee of confidentiality and a court may order disclosure of confidential information.