Child Custody Experts
The most hotly contested issue in family law cases is usually custody of the children. Money can come and go, but a child cannot be replaced. When custody is an issue, an expert is helpful for the Judge to decide what is in the best interest of the child.
The custody expert is a psychologist that usually specializes in child psychology. For their evaluation, they will interview each party, conduct psychological tests, view the interaction between the parent and child, and review collateral sources (photographs, videos, interview witnesses, etc.). After the full evaluation has taken place, the expert will ultimately draft a report determining what is in the best interest of the child. The report should address all of the custody factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. Custody evaluations are very comprehensive and are sometimes costly.
While each party is able to have their own expert if they should choose, it is more cost effective for the parties to get a joint independent expert and split the cost. The Judge also has the authority under the Court Rules to appoint a joint expert. If a joint expert is used, neither party is barred from still obtaining their own expert should they so choose.
Even if a joint expert is used, the report itself should not be automatically implemented without the testimony and cross-examination of the expert as to the contents of the report. This is because the Court is not bound by the recommendations of the report. No matter what, a hearing or trial is still required to determine custody.
If custody is an issue in your case, it is important that you start deciding right away whether or not you want a custody expert and whether or not you would agree to a joint expert.