A to Z of a Forensic Child Custody Evaluation in NJ
Forensic Child Custody Evaluations can be a Useful Tool in Complex Cases before New Jersey Family Courts
A forensic mental health evaluation is an evaluation used by the New Jersey Family judges in difficult, complicated matters involving the emotional dynamics of both the children and the parents involved in the matter. Typically, a judge will order a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist to conduct an evaluation in order to properly assess what the exact relationship between parents and child actually entails. The evaluator conducts a thorough investigation in order to assess any existing psychological issues of the children and parents, the quality of the relationship between both parents and the children, the severity of any conflicts between parents and how that affects their ability to be a parent, the parents’ style of parenting, the bond between parents and children, and finally, the character traits of each parents and what negative impact that may have on the children. Overall, the forensic mental health evaluation dives deep into the psychological conditions within the relevant family unit.
Purpose of a Forensic Child Custody Evaluation
Similarly, a forensic child custody evaluation dives deep into the family unit and the dynamics involved, but these evaluations are triggered by other issues. When there is a dispute as to how custody should be ordered, or if there are substantial allegations of abuse, substance abuse, child abuse, neglect, unfitness, etc., a judge may order a forensic child custody evaluation to be conducted by an independent third-party psychologist or psychiatrist. The evaluations are used solely to determine what would be in the best interests of the child when custody is being determined. The court may choose to follow these recommendations or not.
Who is Entitled to Request an Evaluation?
Evaluations can be ordered by the judge in complicated matters where custody is being disputed, or a judge can decide to order an evaluation because that is his or her prerogative. Evaluations can also be requested by the parents in the familial dispute in order to help the court determine how the disputed issues should be resolved.
Cost of the Forensic Child Custody Evaluation
When a judge orders an evaluation, the court determines what fee is to be paid depending on the complexity of the case and what the parents are able to afford. Typically, it is a significant amount because the evaluator spends a lot of time investigating and compiling a proper report for the court’s reference. This is a prorated fee depending on what the parents’ earn as their income.
Consequences of Refusing to Participate in a Forensic Child Custody Evaluation
When a judge orders either a forensic mental health evaluation or a forensic child custody evaluation the parties to the matter must cooperate, or else they will be in non-compliance with a court order. Non-compliance will also arise if the parties ordered to be evaluated do not pay for the evaluation. Furthermore, and more importantly, not participating in the evaluation will not bode well for the court’s final decision since the evaluation can be a big factor that the court will use in reaching its conclusion. It is strongly recommended to be courteous, cordial and to participate fully with the independent evaluator’s report and questioning.
Who Carries Out the Evaluation?
The court usually keeps a roster of mental health professionals that they have used for past cases and have been satisfied with the work they have produced. The forensic evaluation is conducted by an independent and neutral third-party, licenses psychologist, or psychiatrist.
Get Ready for Your Forensic Child Custody Evaluation in New Jersey
Consulting an experienced and reliable attorney in this field is your first step towards a prudent preparation for the evaluation. However, there are many ways to prepare that an attorney will guide you in. For instance, the evaluator will be asking you for many documents and preliminary information. For instance, the evaluator will be conducting interviews of people who are close to the family and who have experience with family members. The evaluator will need the contact information for all those individuals who have had meaningful interactions with the family, specifically the parents and the children. These people may include teachers, coaches, therapists, community workers, religious leaders, etc. Anyone who has experience with the relevant family unit may be called upon for questioning.
The evaluator may also ask for certain documents to be produced. These documents may include any and all records kept for the children, which may include school progress reports, report cards, certificates, medical records, mental health evaluations completed in the past.
It is in your best interest to be as prepared as possible for this evaluation. The best way to do that is to consult an experienced attorney immediately.
The Critical Role of the Final Custody Evaluation Report
The Final Custody Evaluation Report is the final product of the evaluator and what may or may not be used in determining the custody dispute by the court. Whatever is being alleged can possibly be confirmed or denied by the report; therefore, the report plays a huge role in what issues are being litigated. The detailed report will state the process used, the psychological evaluation of everyone involved, the relationship status and nature between each parent and each child, and the parents’ individual abilities to raise the children and make appropriate decisions for them. The report will also state what recommendations the evaluator is making and the reasons for arriving at their conclusions.
Our Jersey Shore Family Attorneys can Help you Understand the Forensic Child Custody Evaluation Process
For each step of the process, it is extremely important for you to retain an experienced attorney who has dealt with these specific evaluations before. It could mean the difference between seeing your child and not seeing them. Ensuring that you are the most prepared, fully cooperative, and that your interests are best represented, retaining a well-versed family lawyer is necessary. At Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, our experienced family lawyers have a wealth of knowledge in the realm of family law, custody disputes, and complex litigation involving children, parents, domestic violence, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, and related issues.
If you are in need of assistance with a case involving a forensic mental health evaluation in Spring Lake, Rumson, Sea Girt, Bay Head, Brick, Toms River, Berkeley, Manchester, and towns around Monmouth and Ocean Counties, contact our offices in Sea Girt or Brick at (732) 812-3102 or through our online contact form to discuss your case with a lawyer. We are pleased to provide you with a free consultation and to explain how we can assist with preserving your rights.