Initial appointments for custody evaluation are usually available within 2 weeks.
If you have any further questions, please contact me.

An unfortunate reality of divorce is the decision of where the children will live. When the parents cannot agree on this issue, the Court may appoint a qualified professional such as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Psychologist to conduct a formal evaluation of the child and the parents. This is where I come in.

My job is to conduct interviews, assesses you and your co-parent’s respective situations, and make a recommendation to the court on how to resolve custody and/or parenting time (visitation) disputes. It is quite common to experience some anxiety about this process. I understand that many people who find themselves in this situation have been in constant warfare, and you may not have a lot of information about what you can expect through the court process. I will do my best to explain the evaluation and court process by answering your questions and assist each parent in reducing anxiety and encourage both parents to feel better about the process.

The first step is a Court Order that will usually name the evaluator who will conduct the evaluation and how the evaluation will be paid. The final decision concerning custody is made by the Court, not by the evaluator.



Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Custody Evaluation?

A custody evaluation is an objective, systematic approach to gathering as much information as necessary to make recommendations for sole or shared parenting plans, as well as services (such as counseling) that are best suited to the child’s needs.

The evaluation always addresses the needs of the child, not those of the parents. Thus, for example, the fact that a parent may be lonely without the child, is not relevant to the question of with whom the child will fare best.

The child’s needs are not the same as what the child wants. For example, even though a youngster expresses a desire to live with one parent or the other, this may not necessarily be in his or her best interests.

What Is Involved in a Custody Evaluation?

In most cases the evaluation will consist of several interviews and may include psychological testing. Interviews are conducted with all adults involved with the child, including parents, stepparents and sometimes other relatives who have significant roles in the child’s life. Usually several interviews are necessary, especially those that involve the child. Because situational factors (moods, illness, etc.) can have temporary effects on behavior, multiple interviews help differentiate between temporary fluctuations and more enduring personality characteristics.

Psychological testing provides an additional source of information that cannot be obtained through interviews alone. With very young children, interviews may be conducted as play sessions. Some young children can express themselves more clearly through the action of play than through conversations.

In special circumstances, a custody evaluation may involve visits to the home or school, but these are not typically necessary.

In addition to interviews, school records, health records and other documents will be reviewed as necessary. Parents may obtain these records themselves, or sign releases so that I can send for the documents.

How Long Does a Custody Evaluation Take?

Although the number of hours of actual client contact may be modest, the process of interviews and testing usually takes several weeks. School and work schedules need to be accommodated. Moreover, it is advantageous for all adults and children to be seen over a longer period of time, so that minor fluctuations in moods and attention can be viewed in perspective.

After all interviews and testing have been completed, the analysis of data and the preparation of the written report usually takes two to three weeks.

How do you make recommendations?

On my custody evaluation intake form, I will ask each of you how you would suggest settling your dispute with the other parent. It is possible that I might agree with you when I have completed my evaluation. It is also possible that I may disagree with you and recommend something closer to what the other parent wants. Please be aware that whatever I recommend, it will always be based on my analysis of all of the evaluation data and what I believe to be in your child(ren)’s best interests.

In move-away cases, it is important to note that I might not even make a specific recommendation, because relocation issues are driven by legal issues and factors. It is my job to evaluate the family and provide the evaluation data and my analysis of the data to the court. In move-away cases, there are many factors that converge before a decision can be made. I will certainly provide my analysis of the relevant factors that Oregon and Washington statutory and case law demand, as well as any other relevant psychological factors to be considered. However, it is the judge’s job to give weighting to those factors and in a move-away case, it is often impossible for me to make as clear a recommendation as I might in other custody evaluations. It is not uncommon for me to describe my analysis of all relevant factors and then suggest a set of recommendations based on the potential weighting of the court. As such, if the court weighs certain factors as more relevant than certain other factors, I might recommend in one direction, but if the court weighs certain other factors as more relevant, I might recommend in the other direction. This ensures that I do my job (i.e., evaluate and analyze data and factors) while encouraging and supporting the judge to do his or her job (i.e., weigh those factors and reach a decision).

Who gets a copy of the report?

At the end of the evaluation process, I will send my written report to the court and to the attorneys. If a parent is self-represented, I will send the report directly to that parent. Following the completion and submission of the report, I can no longer have contact with you. It is unethical of me to perform additional roles with your family after completing my evaluation. I am willing to confer with the attorneys if such a conference is desired by all involved and not objected to by the court. Be aware that the custodial dispute may not be resolved with the issuance of my report, as my report is advisory only and the court is not obligated to accept my recommendations.

What is the Cost?

My fee for conducting this evaluation is based on the number of hours estimated to complete the evaluation. Typical retainers are between $6,000 to $8,000. This fee includes all interview time, home visits (if there are any), time spent phoning parents and collateral sources and/or reviewing written material, scoring psychological tests, and parenting inventories, writing the evaluation report, and any other time spent in association with the evaluation.

Is the information kept confidential?

Many parents ask about confidentiality in a child custody evaluation. Quite simply, within the process, there is no confidentiality. I may share information that one parent tells me with the other parent or ask one of you questions about what I hear from a parent, child, or any collateral source. I may ask your children about things that I hear from either of you. I will inform your children that
their statements may not be confidential, though I may inform you, your attorneys, and the court if I believe it your child’s interest to protect that confidentiality. I will inform all collateral witnesses that there is no confidentiality in the process. This protects your due process rights and ensures that I can gather necessary information for my evaluation. It is understood that I will be providing the court and the attorney(s) with a written report of my child custody evaluation. In addition, after I have completed my evaluation report and sent it to the attorneys and the court, my entire file, including all notes, psychological test data, and anything else in my file, could be made available to the attorneys and the court upon a legitimate request by any of the parties.

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