(8 minutes)

NPR's Investigative Report by
Alix Spiegel &
featuring Dr. Reena Sommer

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The reality is... the number of contested custody cases has steadily risen in most western countries since the mid 1980's. The reason is that around this time changes in the divorce laws finally recognized that "joint custody" was a preferable legal and practical post divorce arrangement for divorcing families when compared to traditional "sole custody". Until that time, sole custody almost always went to mothers while the financial responsiblity of paying children support almost always went to fathers. In these situations, specified access arrangements were rarely provided to the noncustodial parent and as such, the ability to maintain a relationship with children was often difficult. The intent of the new divorce laws was to rectify this problem by placing the responsibility for caring for children physically, emotionally and financial on both parents - not just one.

While the changes to the divorce laws seemed to solve one set of problems, new and more challenging ones soon began to emerge. The idea that the best interests of children would be served by having both parents in their lives which included the responsible for their care was not embraced by all divorcing parents. The linch pin appeared to be the recognition that post divorce financial support was no longer the domain of the noncustodial parent and was instead, to be a shared responsibility. Suddenly, there were financial incentives for both mothers and fathers to find grounds for why joint custody would not work. For mothers, the incentive was to hold onto child support while for fathers it was not to pay it. So out of this dilemma, a whole new legal challenge emerged - the contested custody case!

Due to the increasing number of custody cases being litigated, judges find making decisions about custody to be very challenging particularly since they have virtually no personal knowledge of the family members involved. Moreover, apart from points of law and legal procedure, judges are generally ill-equipped to make decisions about which of the two warring parents are best able to provide for their children. Given these circumstances, the most logical solution seemed to have a professional who had expertise in the areas of child development, family dynamics and psychopathology to evaluate the family members and then make recommendations to the court about custody and access.

Need More Information?

Everyone's concerns are unique. For that reason, Dr. Reena Sommer invites you to call her without obligation for a 15-minute consultation to receive some initial direction about your specific concerns. You can reach Dr. Sommer directly by calling her at 281.534.3923.

*FYI: We are not attorneys nor are we members of any bar in any state. We do not offer legal advice nor do we present ourselves as doing so. However, we do help attorneys to better represent their clients through our services as divorce strategists and divorce consultants.


The Courts' Reliance on Custody Evaluations

Custody evaluations play a very important role in custody determinations. Court ordered custody evaluations have become common place when parents are unable or unwilling to resolve post divorce parenting on their own or with the help of their attorneys. The custody evaluator's report which includes recommendations for post divorce parenting carries significant weight in a judge's determination of custody and access arrangements. Considering what is at stake, it's absolutely essential that parents involved in contested custody cases, properly inform themselves about what the custody evaluation process entails and how best to pursue it.

  • PARENTS: It's important for you to know that not all custody evaluations or the evaluators who conduct them are created equally. Selecting the right evaluator could mean the difference between a positive and negative outcome. PARENTS read more

  • DIVORCE ATTORNEYS: It's important that you know that just because a custody evaluator has been doing custody evaluations for a long time or he or she seems to be a "favorite" of judges, doesn't mean that he or she has the skills and expertise to do them. Given this reality, it is important to learn how to determine if the custody evaluator being considered for your cases has the proper credentials and experience to conduct custody evaluations. ATTORNEYS read more

Information You Will Find on This Website

This website provides important information about custody evaluations for parents and divorce attorneys. Naturally, it is to your advantage to make use of this information when a custody evaluation is first being considered. Finding out how to prepare yourself for what the custody evaluation process is all about can make a huge difference in its outcome. On the other hand, if you find yourself in the position of having to contend with an unfavorable custody evaluation report, the information contained in this website can be of invaluable assistance to you as well.

Dr. Reena Sommer & Associates PLLC 蟀
Houston, Texas
PHONE: 281.534.3923