Child Custody Evaluation Attorneys in Bergen County, NJ
What Is a Child Custody Evaluation?
New Jersey courts believe that the best thing for any child is to have as close a relationship as possible with their parents after a divorce. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that every parent should expect to share physical or legal custody of their children jointly. Many different factors need to be weighed and considered during the child custody settlement process, and much of it depends upon the children’s needs, the ability of each parent to provide for their children, and the ability of each parent’s child custody attorney to negotiate a final agreement.
In cases when it is particularly difficult to reach a child custody agreement, or simply when the parents wish to have a better understanding of what is best for their children, a child custody evaluation may be ordered by the judge, or requested by the parents involved.
While the findings of any child custody evaluation are never final, judges will take them heavily into consideration when making their ultimate child custody ruling. If a judge has ordered that a child custody evaluation be performed during your divorce, or if you wish to conduct a child custody evaluation, it is important that you retain experienced legal counsel during this process in order to have a better understanding of your rights, obligations, and options, and ensure that your child custody evaluation is conducted in a fair and neutral manner.
At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience guiding and advising parents through the entire child custody evaluation process across Bergen County. Contact our firm today to discuss your unique needs and concerns when it comes to your child custody agreement or a child custody evaluation in a free and confidential consultation.
What Is a Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is an exhaustive analysis, performed typically by a mental health professional trained in reviewing and assessing family situations, designed to provide a thorough assessment of what the evaluator believes may be the best child custody arrangement for the divorcing parents and the children involved.
Parents have a variety of options when it comes to choosing who exactly will perform the child custody evaluation (which we will discuss below), but regardless of who is ultimately chosen to conduct the evaluation, most child custody evaluations involve very similar processes, steps, and analyses. Almost every child custody evaluation will involve:
- Up to three separate interviews between the evaluator and each spouse
- Up to two planned interviews between the evaluator and each child
- Planned time in which the evaluator observes each parent and their relationship and interactions with their children (either in the parent’s home, in the evaluator’s office, or both)
- Interviews between the child custody evaluator and the teachers, doctors, caregivers, therapists and other closely involved adults in the children’s lives
- The evaluator reviewing the court file of the divorce proceedings thus far
- Potentially psychological testings conducted by the evaluator for the parents and possibly the children as well
Once the child custody evaluator has completed their interviews, observations, and analyses, they will draft a formal recommendation to the court outlining what they believe to be the best child custody agreement for the parents and children involved. Again, this evaluation is not legally binding, but it will be accorded a great deal of weight by any judge when it comes to making a final child custody ruling.
Choosing a Child Custody Evaluator
Whether a judge orders a child custody evaluation to be conducted, or the parents request that one be performed, parents are given several options when it comes to choosing who exactly will perform the child custody evaluation. Typically, parents are given the choice between several court-appointed evaluators, or have the option of hiring a private evaluator should that be their preference. Parents should keep in mind that court-appointed evaluators will usually cost somewhere between $1,000 – $2,500, while a private evaluator can cost as much as $10,000 depending on the evaluator’s qualifications and cost of service.
Parents are allowed to question court-recommended evaluators and weigh their options accordingly, but it is highly recommended that you present your questions and concerns to our Bergen County child custody attorneys and allow us to interview the evaluator in turn, rather than questioning the evaluator yourself as you run the risk compromising the neutrality of the evaluator by speaking with them directly.
If the parents cannot agree on an evaluator, the court may appoint one for you, or it may also be possible for each parent to hire their own evaluator.
What Should I Do During My Child Custody Evaluation?
In general, your best bet during a child custody evaluation is to just be yourself, be honest, and trust that the evaluator will recognize the key role you play in your children’s lives. However, it is highly recommended that you do not try to influence the evaluators ultimate recommendation by speaking with them directly about it, or attempting to bribe, manipulate, or otherwise push the evaluator towards a specific decision. This can very easily backfire on you, and cause the evaluator to form a negative opinion of you.
However, if you at any point feel uncomfortable with how your child custody evaluation is proceeding, or with the lines of questioning of your evaluator, it is critical that you raise these concerns to our attorneys during the evaluation process itself, rather than afterward. If you wait until after the evaluation is concluded, any concerns or issues you may have had with the process will probably be discounted due to the potentially unfavorable result the evaluation yielded. On the other hand, if you raise these concerns and issues that you have during the actual child custody evaluation process, our attorneys can work to ensure that your concerns are addressed, and that the child custody evaluation is conducted in a fair and neutral manner.
Contact Our Hackensack Child Custody Evaluation Lawyers Today
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our family law attorneys have extensive experience guiding and advising clients through the entire child custody evaluation process. By practicing exclusively divorce and family law, our firm can focus on the issues most important to you and your family, and providing you with the effective, knowledgeable, and compassionate legal counsel that you need and deserve. We understand just how important your future with your children and as a parent is to you, and as such we are prepared to listen closely to all of your unique needs and concerns and work to find the resolution that best addresses your specific situation. To speak with our firm today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, your child custody agreement, or a child custody evaluation, contact our office today.