Custody Evaluations: What to Know
What to know about custody and parenting-time evaluations in New Jersey Family Court
Custody and parenting time are two of the most contested issues in New Jersey Family Court. Since it is one of the most personal topics to the parties involved in the dispute, it is often an emotionally draining undertaking and can become overwhelming.
When the legal and physical relationship between and child and parent is in question, often the court relies in part upon mental health experts to help them evaluate the parents and the child(ren) to help eventually determine what is in the child(ren)’s best interests, or to help the court answer a particular question relating to the child.
In New Jersey, the most typical method for utilized by the court to help provide information is a full custody and parenting-time evaluation. The evaluator can be any member of the mental health community, including but not limited to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and/or professional counselors. Often, the court is looking for professionals who have a history with treating and/or evaluating families and children, and who have worked with couples in crisis, especially high-conflict couples. In general, the evaluators utilized by the Court have conducted hundreds of assessments of families in the New Jersey court system and are familiar with the legal standards that impact decisions made by the court.
Evaluations (both the process and the reports) are comprehensive and highly detailed. The evaluators investigate the family’s marital or relationship background, the parent’s educational and pre-relationship history, the child(ren)’s extended family and any significant others or stepparents who are involved with the child(ren). The evaluations may include psychological testing of the parents and/or the child and the test data is incorporated into the evaluator’s final written report. Often evaluators ask to speak with “collateral contacts” which may include family therapists, medical doctors, school personnel, sports coaches, etc.
Evaluators rely on personal interviews with and observations of the parties individually, the child or children involved, and joint sessions held with each parent and the child or children.
If you are unfamiliar with the process or with the purpose of the evaluation, custody evaluations may be intimidating and anxiety-producing. This emotional reaction to the process can affect the way in which you relay important information to the evaluator.
We at Jacobs Berger, LLC, are intimately familiar with the custody evaluation process and ensure that they are afforded the care and attention they deserve. If you are involved in a custody or parenting-time matter, and are facing a custody evaluation, contact us online or at 973-710-4366 to ensure that you have genuine guidance in preparing you for the process. We can provide a supportive partnership during the entire evaluation process.