There are a few things you can do to select a custody evaluator that is best suited for you.

FIRST - You need to review the curriculum vitae (CV) of the custody evaluators your attorney proposes. A CV is an academic resume which spells out the custody evaluator's academic and professional credentials. It should also identify his or her training as a custody evaluator. It is important that your custody evaluator has received specific training in this area. If a custody evaluator has done any research, attended conferences/workshops or given lectures related to custody concerns, this information will also be listed in the CV. You want to make sure that the professional conducting your custody evaluation is well trained and experienced in that field.

SECOND - You need to find out how many custody evaluations the custody evaluator has conducted and how many times he or she has testified in court. You or your attorney can actually search databases which could identify the specific cases a particular custody evaluator was involved - that is, if the case actually went to trial. In these cases, a judge may make reference to the custody evaluation. This may give you some indication of the type of recommendations a particular custody evaluator makes.

THIRD - Your attorney should include referral questions in the court order for the custody evaluation. Most attorneys rarely do this and actually, most are not even aware of the purpose for using referral questions. The value of referral questions is that they form the backbone or infrastructure of a custody evaluation. If there are particular issues of concern in your case such as addictions, mental health or parental alienation; referral questions will ensure these issues are addressed by the custody evaluator. Too often, open-ended orders for custody evaluations (e.g., to determine the best interests of the children) leave the scope of the evaluation completely at the discretion of the custody evaluator. When this happens, there is a risk that the issues a parent is most concerned about may not even be addressed. By having referral questions included in the order, the custody evaluator is then required to answer and/or address them. An example of a typical referral question is: "How likely is it that either parent will support his or her child's relationship with the other parent?" It is not uncommon for an order for a custody evaluation to include 5-10 referral questions or more.

FOURTH - If your case is complicated and highly conflicted where questions are raised about parental competency due to issues relating to addictions, mental health, parental alienation or concerns about geographic mobility or a new partner, there will likely be the need for a very thorough custody evaluation. This most often involves psychological testing conducted by a custody evaluator who is trained as a psychologist.

FIFTH - If a psychologist is conducting your custody evaluation, be sure to familiarize yourself with the document, Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings. This document was developed by the American Psychological Association (APA), an organization that all licensed psychologists are members of. As a member, the psychologist should be familiar with and adhere to the policies, rules and guidelines the APA sets out. The "Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings" spells out the procedures that should be followed in custody evaluations. It is important that you and your attorney become familiar with these since many custody evaluators do not follow them.

By properly informing yourself about custody evaluations, you will be in a much better position to select the right custody evaluator and have the best chance that the evaluation conducted will be done properly and comprehensively.

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.

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