If parents are unable to reach an agreement about custody and/or visitation, the judge may order a forensic evaluation. A forensic evaluation, also called a custody evaluation, is an objective assessment of the needs of each child and the ability of the parents to meet them. It is a way of gathering information to help the judge make a decision. The court is trying to determine who the child should live with and who should be responsible for making decisions on his or her behalf as well as visitation arrangements. Married couples, domestic partners and any couples who have children together, may be asked to participate in a custody evaluation for the best interests of the child.
When it comes to custody litigation and evaluations, rumours abound. Some people say: “The court always decides in favor of the mother.”; “The judge doesn’t like gay parents.”; “Fathers always end up stuck with the bill.” Unlike solicitors and barristers whose job is to advocate for their client, the custody evaluator, a psychologist, maintains a neutral role in the process. The psychologist does not work for either side but rather collects and organizes information in order to prepare a report to be submitted to the court. Sometimes, the psychologist is asked to make a recommendation. The report might highlight things about the case that the judge did not know and that will help him or her make a fair decision.
The Adler Family Centre has considerable experience conducting custody evaluations. We have worked directly with judges, solicitors and barristers. In addition to expertise with a variety of psychological testing (personality measures and custody questionnaires, admissions tests), we have expertise in working with children in school and individual settings. We know how to establish rapport with any child so that families will feel at ease throughout the custody evaluation process.