By Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC
In this guest blog post (Part II of a two-part series; if you missed Part I, please find it here), we’re discussing Child Custody Evaluations.
If you’re going through the process of divorce and have children, you may be facing a custody evaluation. Let’s dive into some of the best practices that Evaluators use, how you may best understand them, and what these practices mean for you as you navigate the system.
- Child custody evaluators will use formal assessments in their evaluations, such as interviews, tests, and instruments. Thankfully this will create a uniform standard for you, as the one being evaluated, and hopefully eliminate biases. The evaluators are properly trained in how to use these instruments of assessments, as well as how to implement them properly and explain why they’re being used. In other words, there is a methodology for the evaluators to employ for the process of the evaluations— and this methodology is designed to safeguard everyone involved in the process.
- In certain circumstances, your child custody evaluation may feature a team of evaluators. How might this impact your evaluation? Most importantly the team approach must be based upon the premise that all the mental health professionals assigned to the team are competently assessed and qualified to fulfil their team roles. Ultimately the Evaluators in charge will make the decision as to engage a team, but this may offer you varying viewpoints and a more wide-ranging evaluation (if deemed appropriate).
- It’s incumbent upon the evaluators to stay in their lane and avoid multiple relationships with the Court. Whether that’s obvious (a personal, romantic, or close relationship) or more far-reaching (objectivity and professional relationships), it’s up to the evaluators and the Court to maintain this. If unavoidable, the evaluators must disclose the nature of their relationship to the Court, as well as any potential conflicts. The bottom line is to provide you with the fair and objective custody evaluation you deserve.
- Follow the paper trail: evaluators have obligations to keep proper records and do so with good standing and in reasonable detail. (Said records may in fact figure heavily into litigation at any level.) The evaluators must maintain control of their records.
- Upon completion of the evaluations the evaluators have a duty to present their findings and opinions in an objective, accurate and balanced way. The data used in the evaluations should be evidence based, as well as, ideally, peer reviewed and based on published reports. Additionally, the evaluators should realize that data not germane to the evaluation, or its outcome, should not be disclosed, as it may be prejudicial and/or harmful to you.
Trust us, we get it: this is one of the most difficult and frightening parts of the divorce process. We’ve been there, and we know you can get through it. We hope you’ve found these two guest blog posts useful and informative. More on child custody in general may be found on our website here.
If you need help with child custody in the state of New Jersey, please consider reaching out to the Family Law Department at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC. Additionally, our blog Let’s Talk About Divorce addresses many aspects of the divorce process.