When a couple is unable to agree on the legal and physical custody of their child/children, the court will hear arguments from both parents in what is often called a “custody battle.” The word “battle” is not there by accident.
Child custody litigation can be a very costly and emotionally charged process, one that sometimes requires every member of the household to go through a painful and scarring process, and for loved ones to be separated for long periods of time.
The Court’s main concern in these scenarios is what is in the best interest of the children. Considering the best interest of a child guides them in determining things like who has legal/physical custody, visitation rights, etc. The child also has to undergo a forensic evaluation.
So, what is a forensic evaluation?
A forensic evaluation involves assigning a psychiatrist or a mental expert to evaluate the family through a series of interviews, information gathered and looking into essential documents. The mental health expert will have access to various family documents and third-party accounts (extended family, family friends, neighbors, etc.) of interactions with the family.
Typically, the expert will meet with the child alone, the parents alone, and the child with each parent. The expert will ask a number of questions regarding the parents and their relationship with the child, as well as with each other.
Psych tests will also be administered that will help the expert understand the different personalities and emotional strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the family. This is done to understand the dynamic of the family and create their evaluation. Note: Child Custody Evaluators are prohibited from making an express recommendation as to which parent should be afforded legal or physical custody. However, these evaluations hold significant weight, and the guardianship position is often influenced by these reports.
This written report includes the test results and all other relevant information that the mental health expert accumulated during their investigation. It will highlight the child’s relationship with both parents, the parent’s relationship with each other, and potential risks that could influence child custody or visitation time. While the court can disregard the results of the report, which is very rare, the report is often an essential tool in the final ruling.
If you need legal representation contact Paul E. Rudder, Esq. today. Mr. Rudder has helped numerous clients through child custody disputes. Call 212-826-9900 to set up a consultation.