In divorce cases with contested child custody issues, a child custody expert may be a powerful tool to help the Courts and the Parents protect the children and develop a parenting plan that is in their best interests.
You may wish to discuss the possibility of retaining a child custody expert with your divorce lawyer in one of the following three scenarios:
1. The parents cannot agree on a parenting plan
Ideally, the parents resolve child custody disputes among themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes the parents have completely different thoughts regarding an appropriate timesharing schedule. This is seen most often when both parents agree that the child should spend the majority of his time in one household, but cannot decide which parent’s household.
Judges are reticent to make these decisions for the litigants. After all, the Judge often cannot learn enough information in the narrow confines of the Courtroom to make an informed decision on the custody arrangement of minor children. In such cases, a child custody evaluator can perform a detailed objective evaluation outside of the Courtroom to help the Judge make his decision.
The child custody evaluation process involves compiling information and forming opinions regarding the custody of the child and articulating that information to the Court, the parents, and the parent’s attorneys. See Model Standards of Child Custody Evaluations (2006).
Child custody evaluators are qualified mental health professions who act as impartial examiners when the parents are unable to formulate their own parenting plans. They have education and training in child custody work, but often will have a strong grasp of the relevant State Law regarding the best interests of the children.
The child custody evaluator will then formulate their opinion through the “funnel” of the State Law to provide an opinion that will be helpful to the Judge in the case.
2. A parent is unfit to exercise unsupervised timesharing with the Minor Children
In some unfortunate cases, one parent is presently unfit to have unsupervised timesharing. Commonly this is because of mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence issue.
All jurisdictions, however, carry some presumption that substantial timesharing with both parents is in the best interests of the child. Therefore, limiting the time with one parent, even though it is to protect the child, often requires an expert evaluation and opinion.
In most cases where a Court does restrict custody of one parent, the Court will be required to articulate certain conditions or actions the parent can take to regain more substantial custody. The Court will likely defer to the expert to lay out those conditions.
3. Repressed Memories/ Sexual Abuse Allegations
Sexual Abuse allegations can have a devastating impact on the family. While many allegations are founded, there are certain troubling cases of “repressed memories” coming to light after therapy, sometimes many years after the alleged incident.
Repressed memories recovered by progressive therapy techniques must be analyzed thoroughly by an appropriate expert for accuracy, and to eliminate the possibility that the memory was not falsely created by the therapist. Sexual abuse claims are serious, that can result in not only an elimination of custody for the accused with his child(ren), but potentially criminal charges.
Christian Denmon is an AV rated Divorce Attorney in Tampa , Florida, at Denmon & Denmon Trial Lawyers and is rated “Superb” by the Independent Review Site AVVO.