717-761-1814 drwallin@drwallin.com

Child Custody Evaluations

Initial appointments for custody evaluation are usually available within 2 weeks.

If you have any further questions, please contact me

717-761-1814
drwallin@drwallin.com

An unfortunate reality of divorce is the decision of where the children will live. When the parents cannot agree on this issue, the Court may appoint a psychologist to conduct a formal evaluation of the child and the parents.

The Court Order usually names the psychologist who will conduct the evaluation, and stipulates who will pay for the evaluation. The final decision concerning custody is made by the Court, not by the psychologist.

What Is a Custody Evaluation?

A custody evaluation is an objective, systematic approach to gathering as much information as necessary in order to make recommendations for sole or shared parenting plans, as well as services (such as counseling) that are best suited to the child’s needs.

The evaluation always addresses the needs of the child, not those of the parents. Thus, for example, the fact that a parent may be lonely without the child, is not relevant to the question of with whom the child will fare best.

The child’s needs are not the same as what the child wants. For example, even though a youngster expresses a desire to live with one parent or the other, this may not necessarily be in his or her best interests.

What Is Involved in a Custody Evaluation?

In most cases the evaluation will consist of several interviews as well as psychological testing. Interviews are conducted with all adults involved with the child, including parents, step-parents and sometimes other relatives who have significant roles in the child’s life. Usually several interviews are necessary, especially those that involve the child. Because situational factors (moods, illness, etc.) can have temporary effects on behavior, multiple interviews help differentiate between temporary fluctuations and more enduring personality characteristics.

Psychological testing provides an additional source of information that cannot be obtained through interviews alone. With very young children, interviews are conducted as play sessions. Young children can express themselves more clearly through the action of play than through conversations.

In special circumstances, a custody evaluation may involve visits to the home or school, but these are not typically necessary.

In addition to interviews, school records, health records and other documents will be reviewed as necessary. Parents may obtain these records themselves, or sign releases so that I can send for the documents.

How Long Does a Custody Evaluation Take?

Although the number of hours of actual client contact may be modest, the process of interviews and testing usually takes several weeks. School and work schedules need to be accommodated. Moreover, it is advantageous for all adults and children to be seen over a longer period of time, so that minor fluctuations in moods and attention can be viewed in perspective.

After all interviews and testing have been completed, the analysis of data and the preparation of the written report usually takes two to three weeks.

Who Will Receive the Report?

When the report is completed, each parent will be notified by letter, which will also include a current invoice. Upon payment in full by the responsible party (or parties), the report will be released.

A copy of the report will be mailed to each attorney, and to the presiding judge.  All copies of the report will be mailed on the same day.

What is the Cost?

The cost is based on an hourly rate of $240.00. Psychological testing is $150.00 per adult. Analysis of the results and writing of the final report is billed at the rate of $240.00 per hour.

If I am called to testify in Court, this is billed at the hourly rate of  $300.00 per hour. The total number of hours depends on the number of children and the number of adults directly involved in the children’s lives. The total cost is generally $5,000 to $7,000.00 when one child is involved. For more than one child, the cost increases because of the additional time for interviews and review of records.

A retainer of $2,000.00 from each parent is required at the outset of the evaluation. If the court has ordered only one parent to pay for the entire evaluation, the retainer is $4,000.00 from that parent. Parents will receive regular accounting of fees incurred. You may pay by cash, check or by credit card (MasterCard, VISA, Discover).

When all interviews, testing and other data collection have been completed, the fees incurred up to that time are payable in full. After these fees are paid, I will compile the final report, billed at the hourly rate. After the report is completed, a final bill will be issued. Upon payment in full, the report will be released to the attorneys and to the judge.

If it is necessary for me to testify in Court, an additional retainer will be required at least 7 days prior to the Court date. The retainer fee of $300/hour reserves time for my travel and time spent in court, with a minimum of 4 hours reserved.

The retainer is non-refundable, as the time is set aside in my schedule, and cannot be used by anyone else.

If the time for my testimony exceeds the pre-paid retainer, the parent who requested testimony will be billed for the excess.

Is the information kept confidential?

Unlike psychotherapy, the information obtained in a custody evaluation is not kept confidential. All documents and records of interviews will be considered data that may be included in the report. If the case goes to Court, the report becomes part of the Court record.