Custody Evaluations in New Jersey
A custody evaluation is when a mental health professional comes in to give a recommendation as to custody and parenting time during a divorce or other case involving child custody. A custody evaluator will interview parents, children, and collateral witnesses and consider all factors when making a recommendation. A custody evaluator is used in circumstances where parties cannot agree on custody and parenting time arrangements.
Custody evaluators can have a substantial impact on divorce and custody cases. It is important to work with a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands the importance of custody evaluations in New Jersey and can help you prepare.
Preparing for a Custody Evaluation
Before a custody evaluation, it is wise for an individual to have an in-depth conversation with their attorney. A family law attorney understands what the evaluators are looking for and can help parents convey the necessary information to the evaluator.
Certain information such as pleadings from court, text messages, or other evidence can be used to bolster one’s position going into an evaluation. A skilled New Jersey family law attorney can help a parent gather this evidence to present during a custody evaluation.
The Custody Evaluation Process
When parents do not agree upon a custody and parenting time arrangement, the court will appoint an evaluator, or the parties will ask the court to obtain their own evaluators. The parties may also choose to retain a joint evaluator as a cost-savings measure. A custody evaluator will meet with the parents and children, sometimes several times, and may also conduct a home visit. During a home visit, a custody evaluator will go to the parents’ home or homes and see how they interact with the child.
Custody evaluators will also ask the litigants for information about any other people that may have information about the parties and the children. These people are known as collateral sources. Evaluators may also request authorization to speak to any mental health professionals that are treating the children and/or the parties.
An evaluator will often speak with pediatricians, teachers, and daycare workers. An evaluator’s goal is to get as much information about the parties and the children as possible to make a recommendation as to what would be in the child’s best interests.
Things Custody Evaluators Look For
A New Jersey custody evaluator’s first priority is the wellbeing of the children. Accordingly, things one might look for during an evaluation include:
- Each party’s ability to cooperate with the other
- Whether the children are disproportionately bonded to a particular parent
- Which parent provides more stability
- How comfortable the children are with each parent
- The children’s routine
During a custody evaluation, it is important for parents to remember that it is better to focus on their own strengths than to tear down the other parent. Parents should highlight how the best interests of their child would be served by the plan they are proposing. This is not to say that parents should not express concerns with the evaluator, but it is best to avoid being vindictive and instead emphasize one’s own stability and strengths.
How the Outcome of an Evaluation Can Impact a Custody Case
Oftentimes, a custody case will settle after an evaluation because the parties adopt the recommendations of the evaluator. If the court has appointed an evaluator and one of the parties has also gotten an evaluator, there can be issues if the recommendations do not match up.
If the parties are not willing to come to a compromise, a custody case will go to trial, where a judge will make a custody recommendation. In cases where parties cannot agree after an evaluation, a New Jersey child custody attorney can help parents seek a positive resolution in court.
Reach out Today to Learn More About Custody Evaluations in New Jersey
While custody evaluations may seem daunting, knowing what to expect can make the process go much smoother. An experienced family law lawyer can help you prepare for custody evaluations in New Jersey, guiding you through the process and making sure that your family’s best interests are protected. To learn more, schedule a consultation with a dedicated professional at Moskowitz Law Group today.