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Father concerned that the custody evaluator isn't fully investigating the case


Your Question:
The custody evaluator we have assigned to our case doesn't seem to be doing much of anything. She did the initial questionaires on both me and my wife and watched us play with our children one time each. She hasn't called any of my collatoral contacts or done any personality profiling even though I've requested both. She rarely responds to my calls and the court date for her to report to the judge is coming up too soon for her to have time to do any more investigation. My wife has said that if she gets full custody I will never see them again and I've got this on tape. The evaluator didn't seem very interested in this and even said that people will say such things without meaning it.

Can I ask for another evaluation or is there some way to show the judge that the evaluator wasn't very interested in our case?

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My Answer:
Hi back atcha,

I had many of the same concerns about my evaluator (a clinical psychologist) that you have expressed. Don't get yourself all worked up at this point-- nothing bad has happened, right?

If you haven't already, you should put together a binder of all important documents, copies of correspondence, and affadavits. Give it to the evaluator, either directly or through your attorney. You want to make sure you're not sitting around, waiting for the evaluator to call your witnesses, only to have her report come out without contacting your people.

If you put good evidence in her hands, which should be relevant and of concern to the child's welfare, the evaluator cannot later claim ignorance of it. If she never contacts your witnesses, she can claim (e.g., on cross-examination) that she never had the information for her decisions.

So, you want to create a scenario that IF she makes recommendations that are not in this child's best interest, you attorney can grill her on the stand, "Well, how is it that three objective witnesses all wrote affadavits - which you received - expressing their concern about the child being in the mother's care, yet you recommend the child remain in the mother's care?!"

Don't worry about overburdening the evaluator, so long as everything you give her is RELEVANT and SOLID. If you give her 100 pages of your personal opinion, speculation, etc; then that's worthless and wastes her time. But if you have doctors, teachers, priests, rabbis, congresspeople (or any other person who is objective and not naturally biased towards you or the mother) who write down their perspective in an affadavit, you've FORCED the evaluator to consider their perspectives... else her own reputation is on the line (and that's all she really cares about at the end of the day).

In another email, you suggested that you have objective people who have significant contact with your son and both parents; all who want to express their concerns about the mother. Ask them to write signed declarations, sworn to be true under the penalty of perjury. They can be short (less than a page each), and they can invite contact to discuss the matter further. This is a bit unconventional -- forcing a collateral witness' perspective onto the evaluator -- but the stakes you face are pretty big. You certainly can't be punished for giving the evaluator that info, though she may have wished to control accessing those people. Too bad. But you've resolved the most important thing.

Don't worry about eliminating the "surprise" if those people write declarations that have to be cc'd to opposing counsel when the evaluator likewise receives the materials (this is required in some jurisdictions). It's a much bigger risk if the information never reaches the evaluator.

In my situation, the custody evaluation lasted 7 months. He administered 3 psychological tests and 2 parenting tests to both parents and the stepmother. He interviewed me 3 times, approximately 7 hours total. He interviewed my ex 9 times, approximately 11 hours total. He interviewed my wife once. He spent 60 to 90 minutes with each of us in our homes, observing us with our daughter. I provided a list of around ten collateral contacts, and he didn't call any of them. He only wanted to talk with daughter's preschool teacher and daughter's therapist. He missed the first deadline to have his report ready for the scheduled trial, so it was rescheduled for a month later.

His final report had good and bad things to say about each parent. He had worse things to say about the mother than myself, but he didn't view her as unstable as I believe her to be. He spent 1.5 pages describing mother's psychological challenges but made no connection between them and the problems in the co-parenting relationship. He spent one paragraph largely describing me as psychologically normal, and same for my wife. His custody recommendations were not even close to everything I thought was best for our daughter, but they were certainly much better than what existed. Most importantly, he strongly stated how devastating it would be to the child if the mother was allowed to move away with her-- hence blocking a move-away. I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed-- it was clear that he hadn't reviewed most of the evidence I provided (else, he may have altered his perspective somewhat), but it wasn't horrible for my position by any means. And, because it wasn't horrible for me, I wasn't about to challenge his credibility on anything, as my ex wanted to do (i.e., she viewed it far more negatively than me).

With regard to your attorney's involvement in all this, create a paper trail. Emphasize, in writing, to your attorney that your ex is unstable and you believe it's critical to have her undergo a psych eval. When you send your materials to the evaluator, cc your attorney, and include a cover letter to your attorney, specifying what you're sending and why. In general with your attorney, always ask that your requests be completed by XX/XX/XXXX date, else for the attorney to specify a date that may be more reasonable for you to expect.

If you give your attorney critical and important information, and if you create a paper trail, it's more difficult for the attorney to bump you to low priority. Same thing with the evaluator. She's juggling many cases, likely, and you're just a case number to her.

Make sure YOU take steps to get both of them important information that, if ignored, will have an impact on their own reputations (i.e., or possibly open them up to something worse). Get it? It's okay to be politely assertive without appearing aggressive.

Good luck, and please let me know what happens.

Eric





This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.


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