It is very possible that spouses can agree on a child custody arrangement
for themselves, and perhaps they can reach this agreement through
mediation. There are other times, however, when the case has to go to court in order
for a judge to determine how custody will be awarded. A judge will likely
prompt a child custody evaluation, though couples can ask for one too.
The evaluation is written by an evaluator, who gives his or her judgment
on what would be best for the child as regards custody and
visitation. The judge would then go over this opinion to make a ruling. Sometimes,
a "guardian ad litem" will be used instead, that is, an attorney
who represents the child can make a recommendation to the judge regarding
custody. The evaluation process will be remarkably similar, however, whoever
it is that does the evaluating.
Who is the custody evaluator? This will likely be a psychologist, though
it could be another mental health professional who is qualified to recommend
to a judge what a child's best interests are. While it is far from
guaranteed that what the evaluator says will determine a ruling, a judge
may rely a great deal on the evaluation. It likely represents the most
objective data available on a family.
In the evaluation process, it is possible that you and the other parent
will have a say in who is the evaluator. This could mean that the court
lets you choose from a selection of three evaluators, or that you get
to reject someone from the court's list of evaluators. If you want
a private evaluator, or if each parent wants to pick their own evaluator,
then this will come with a considerable price tag. It could cost around
one or two thousand dollars if a court orders and chooses an evaluator;
it could be at least $10,000 to hire an evaluator of your own.
Here is how the typical evaluation would go: The evaluator would set up
times to interview you as well as your spouse, as much as three different
times. Then each child would be interviewed one or two times. An evaluator
will also want to each child around each parent, assessing how they relate
and get along. The evaluator will also want to examine your case file
and talk with teachers, doctors, etc. Some evaluators will conduct psychological
testing, or they will ask for these tests to be completed (especially
in the case of a guardian ad litem).
If you have any issues with the evaluator, such as a suspected bias on
their part, then you need to speak up before the report is finished. A
complaint will look poorly in light of an evaluation that is unfavorable
to you. You will want to voice apprehensions to your attorney as soon
as possible. After all, the evaluation can deal with who gets custody
and how visitation will work. There can also be recommendations about
therapy, about how you and your spouse need to work through issues, and
how to overcome problems such as substance abuse. If your child is considerably
young, then an evaluator may further suggest that another evaluation be
conducted at a certain future date.
You can either fight the evaluation in court, or agree to it so as to save
you and your child further stress-filled delays in moving on. You can
discuss your options with an experienced divorce lawyer. If you are facing
a divorce, especially one that involves
child custody, then you desperately need to find the best Long Island divorce attorney
that you can.
Contact the Meyers Law Group, P.C. to find out what a compassionate and dedicated lawyer may be able to do for you.