NEOBH conducts Custody Evaluation upon direct order from a Domestic Relations or Family Court Judge or Magistrate. These are the only circumstances under which NEOBH can conduct such an assessment and make recommendations regarding parental fitness and custodial arrangements for children.
Custody evaluations can be conducted prior to the completion of a divorce action, or may be requested by the court when a change in custodial arrangements is requested by one party. Other specialized circumstances (such as a parent that wishes to move out of town with a child) may warrant a request for a court-ordered evaluation regarding what parenting arrangement might be in the best interest of the child.
The issues that must be considered within the context of a custody evaluation have tremendous implications for the lives of the children involved. Therefore, custody evaluations require an extensive assessment of the personality functioning of each parent, and in some cases, an analysis of how each parent has managed existing conflicts that may have persisted within the process of the divorce, or post-decree conflicts. If applicable, the influence and impact of step-parents and other important adults are also assessed within the process of a custody evaluation.
Extensive history-taking and psychological testing is conducted toward the completion of a custody evaluation. Conjoint sessions are frequently conducted with parents that have engaged new marriage partners or consistent live-in companions.
Children are typically shielded from involvement in custody evaluation proceedings until the evaluator has gained an adequate understanding of the stresses and challenges that may have been experienced by the children thus far. Most often, each parent is asked to bring school-age children to the office for an individual and a conjoint interview. Thus, the evaluator has the opportunity to meet with children as individuals, has well as observe them in the presence of each parent. As the evaluation process continues, the evaluator typically makes modifications to the evaluation plan, in order to make sure that the assessment needs of each child are adequately met. Many children have a strong desire to meet with the examiner individually, in order to express their opinions and experiences. Other children have many anxieties about doing so; therefore, the custody evaluator must be sensitive to the needs of the children. Children who are too young to participate in a formal clinical interview are observed in neutral interaction with each parent during separate sessions.
Individuals involved in custody evaluations are asked to sign releases of information to the court that has ordered the assessment. Additional releases are requested for respective legal counsel, Guardian ad Litem, and other professionals that may have been involved in family or individual intervention in the past. Releases for information regarding the functioning of the children are typically requested from classroom teachers, or other reasonably neutral individuals that have had an opportunity to closely observe the emotional and social functioning of the children.
Individuals who consent to involvement in custody evaluations receive a comprehensive disclosure document that details all of the processes involved in the assessment, as well as expectations regarding fees, confidentiality and other important issues.
Custody evaluations at NEOBH are performed only by licensed clinical psychologists with extensive experience in the completion of specialized family assessment. These evaluations are conducted with careful consideration of ethical expectations.