Great news parents! In case you’ve just discovered that you’re “expecting” a divorce, and haven’t been harrangeud by a spouse for an eternity already, are stressed to the max, but are not yet convinced that you have no idea what you’re doing as a parent, spouse, friend, and human being, there are people here to help. Custody Evaluators! Don’t think you need one? Don’t know what they do? Don’t have a clue? Don’t fear! AFCC brings you an analysis of why you need–really really need–to spend that $20,000 you were saving for your kid’s college on an expert to tell you everything you’re doing wrong as a parent, litigant, and sentient being according to science. Let the mind of a sex therapist, Freud, Bolby, “attachment” theory, men’s rights and feminist ideology, Rorschack, Caldwell, dozens of hidden ideological, political, personal, and cultural biases, and just plain whimsy-as-someone-else’s-reality tell you everything you never knew about you and your “strengths and weaknesses” as a parent to you children that you were incompetent to be unaware of. Your luck day has arrived!
You’re about to learn why you NEED a custody evaluation–and why you’re selfish if you think otherwise!
And you thought the blessings of marriage ended upon the filing of a divorce? Just wait! The lesson is only just beginning!
Another Blessing of Marriage: Custody Evaluations and Everything You Never Knew You Didn’t Know
Are Full Child Custody Evaluations
a Realistic Option?
With the cost of private evaluations sometimes running into tens of thousands
of dollars, how realistic is the application of the comprehensive
custody evaluation process outlined in the AFCC’s Model Standards for those
without significant resources? Can an evaluation that does not meet the
Model Standards provide what the court and families need? Do other less
comprehensive models offer a reasonable alternative or do they ultimately
give short shrift to the needs of children? Which is greater: the cost of comprehensive
custody evaluation or the cost of not having one?
Send “Thank You!” Mail To:
Clarence Cramer, M.A., Director, Family Services of the Conciliation Court, Coolidge, AZ
Hon. William Fee, AFCC President Elect, Angola, IN
Samuel J. Ferrara, J.D., Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Flowers, Greenburg &
Eisman LLP, Lake Success, NY
Nancy Olesen, Ph.D., private practice, San Rafael, CA
Moderator: Arnold Shienvold, Ph.D., Harrisburg, PA
Host: Mary M. Ferriter, J.D., M.P.A., AFCC President, Boston, MA
Topics: How decision to hire custody evaluator is made by attorneys, judges, and evaluators. What the evaluation contains, work the evaluator does (interviews, testing, collateral contacts with pediatricians, day care providers, document review, police reports, hospital reports, talking to therapists, etc.). How attorneys drive clients with threats to “not try a case without a custody evaluator.” How spending $20,000 on something you don’t need actually saves you money! These people are simply geniuses.
Divorce Industry professionals debate whether an evaluation without recommendation saves money or costs more; whether “focused evaluations” are worth even the lower cost. Is there a need in particular cases. The attorneys, judge, and evaluator struggle with the efficacy and cost-effectiveness.
Note the speakers lack of an appreciation of the bias that appears in later conferences, and despite acknowledging limitations of evaluations, are reluctant to abandon them because “they settle cases.” They clearly see the primary value of an evaluation is “getting information to the judge.”
Note Arnold Scheinvold’s punching up the “value” of his industry—“since you need it…” “how can you make a good decision if you don’t have one…” “If they can’t afford it how can the judge make a good decision?”
“Certain things I am going to need” then if they have the financial wherewithal, “I tell them I’m not going to try a custody case without a forensic expert involved at some level.”
“Are psychological issues that are troublesome to one parent that need to be nailed down by a psych. eval?”
“I want to have an eval. If I can get one, so the incentive is certainly there to say “okay you folks are getting an evaluation. Most judges would probably handle it the same way.”
Q: “What do you do if there’s a need such as relative parenting capacities, but your client can’t afford it?”
A: “It’s not an option, as lawyer my job is to advocate on behalf of my client. If my client tells me there’s really a custody issue here, then I have to have a heart to heart with my client and say I’m not trying a child custody case without an evaluator on my side. You go find the money, and you’re going to have an expert. If you’re walking through the door to my office you have resources somewhere, if it means you’re going to have to drive a ford Taurus then that’s what it’s going to be.”
“You may have to sell your interests in a condo, dad may have to sell his Harley. There’s got to be a re-ordering of priorities.”
“What some judges do is appoint a best interests attorney which is a lot cheaper.”
“If the evaluation is done properly, both parents can have a measure of confidence to help the lawyers settle the case.”
“The danger is people make snap judgments. All of the research tells us we are no better than chance of telling who is telling the truth. People can confuse the causes of behaviors. Its takes more time to dig deeper.”
“It would be cheaper to flip a coin.”
“Thanks to the good work of some of the people we work with, the judge no longer accepts a recommendation from the evaluation.”
“There’s less information going to the judge when the resources are misdirected in an overblown evaluation.”
“I’m not sure that the shortcomings [of a short evaluation] are not also present in the complete custody evaluation.”
“When I hear that an examiner can’t be cross examined, that’s quite a difference in due process, and are we doing it because the information is so good?”
“When we do certain kinds of evaluations they have to sign a stipulation that they will not cross examine the evaluation, so they’re screwed for their due process.”
Judges control custody evaluators even expecting them to do pro bono work, and send evaluators cases which they expect the evaluator to take pro bono. “It helps your standing in the court.”
Contra Costa has a “system” where evaluators are required to “give back to the courts” to do low cost or pro bono evaluations.