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What is a Child CustodyForensic Evaluation?
February 25, 2019
The Role of Forensic Evaluations in Child Custody cases.
In all New York child custody cases that are high conflict the court will usually appoint a psychological evaluator to conduct testing and to render a report to the Court.
Often times these evaluators are referred to as independent forensic psychological evaluators. In such cases, the parties are usually required to pay for these evaluations prorata to their income. In divorce cases in Supreme Court the court usually requests that the attorney submit alternate private names of evaluators and the court will then choose between these names in the appointment of the evaluator. The Court also retains a list of experts that they often rely upon as reliable. However, in family court, you may request that the court order a risk assessment report rather than a full-on forensic evaluation which is less costly and sometimes free of charge. It is sometimes less through then an independent evaluation, but I have seen very good risk assessment reports coming out of Family Court cases in New York County.
Whether or not a court will order these types of evaluations is within the sound discretion of the court. These reports are oftentimes provided free of charge. The opinions of these experts are given substantial weight in court. The risk assessment reports generally involve the expert interviewing the parties and the subject child and witnessing the subject child in the care of both respective parents. This is a process that takes a couple of months to complete. Once the process is completed the forensic evaluator will render a report to the court and the parties.
I find that the risk assessment reports are generally very useful when both parties are of limited resources. The professionals that execute these reports are usually psychologists trained in family court matters of this kind. These Reports, while given substantial weight, are not the end all in the determination as to which party is granted custody.
The risk assessment report is different from the independent forensic psychological evaluation in the sense that the independent forensic evaluation is more comprehensive and is likely to cost more money. However, the goal is the same, which is to provide the court with some insight into the more scientific elements of child custody. The courts also rely upon the attorney for the child. The attorney for the child can make motions and argue for the rights of the child. The court also rely upon the testimony and evidence proffered at the trial. In the end, it is the weight of the evidence that the court is most concerned about in rendering its custody decision.
All parties are encouraged to cooperate politely with all forensic evaluations and attorneys for the children. That means, appear for all sessions required of you and be honest and forthright. It does not help to lie or try to portray yourself as someone you are not because the psychological evaluators will be able to figure that out. That does not mean that you should not be prepared by your New York Custody attorney prior to you entering into a forensic evaluation.