Custody Evaluations in North Carolina By Raleigh Family Lawyer Kimberly A. Wallis

Raleigh, North Carolina  (JusticeNewsFlash.com), It is not uncommon in the process of separation and divorce for one or both of the parties to request a custody evaluation. There are number of issues to consider as a parent before requesting or agreeing to a custody evaluation

 What is a custody evaluation   –   The primary purpose of a custody evaluation is to assess what custodial arrangement is in the child’s best interest.  This is done by evaluating individual and family factors that affect the child’s best interest.  In general, a custody evaluation is conducted by a mental health professional (typically a psychologist) who will administer a number of psychological tests to the parties, as well as interview the family and other third parties.  Following the assessment, the evaluator will typically make a recommendation regarding what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interest of the child. The recommendations could, for instance, include sole custody to one parent and visitation to the other, joint physical custody with time sharing arrangements depending on the age and development of the children

When should I ask for or agree to a custody evaluation?

             A custody evaluation may be helpful in cases where there are issues of parental unfitness, where custody is heavily contested, where children are of a suitable age and discretion to state a preference regarding custody/visitation, or in cases where one party wishes to relocate.

What is the average cost of a custody evaluation?

            A custody evaluation can be expensive, often times costing several thousand dollars.   The actual cost will depend upon a number of variables including the specific financial requirements of the evaluator, as well as the complexity and time involved in a specific evaluation.

Who should I retain to do a custody evaluation?

            Before retaining any evaluator you should ensure that they have substantial training and experience in performing custody evaluations, as well as providing deposition and expert testimony at trial.   You should be careful to ensure that the evaluator is not being asked to perform any additional roles outside of evaluator.   For example, it is not appropriate for a therapist to conduct a custody evaluation when they have previously acted a therapist for one of the parties or the children.  You may wish to obtain a referral from an attorney who has experience with expert witnesses.

How are issues of confidentiality treated?

            In general, it is assumed that the custody evaluator will share the results of evaluation with the opposing counsel and the court.   In many cases, the evaluator will request releases for a party’s prior medical and mental health history.   If you have concerns about confidentiality, you should talk with an attorney about these concerns prior to requesting or agreeing to a custody evaluation.

 What should I do if I receive an unfavorable evaluation?

            Although this sounds self-serving, the most important thing to do if you have received an unfavorable evaluation is to talk with an attorney who has experience with these matters.   Your attorney may recommend that you hire another expert to critique the evaluation that was performed or administer the same or additional tests.

Contributor: Kimberly A. Wallis – Kimberly Wallis is a partner in the Raleigh, North Carolina Family Law Firm of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC. She is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist. For more information contact the Raleigh, North Carolina Family Law Firm of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC at 1101 Haynes Street, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27604, Tel: 919-832-8488 or go to www.gailorwallishunt.com.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended as a general guide and is not to be used as legal advice by Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC. Whether or not you may be entitled to take action in regard to the information addressed in this article can only be determined after a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of your case.

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