In child custody cases, the court may order both parents to undergo evaluation before a mental health professional, called a custody evaluator. The evaluation helps assess parents' mental fitness, parenting capacity, and the child's psychological needs to determine their best interest.
Unfortunately, not all child custody evaluators have the proper training or even qualifications to conduct these evaluations. Their reports and recommendations to the judge can sometimes contain partial, unfair, and biased opinions. In such situations, the unfavored parent might lose significant parenting time with their child.
Therefore, it's understandable if you feel that your custody evaluator got things wrong and you don't like your parenting evaluation report. It's best to speak with your attorney and relay your concerns. Additionally, here are two ways you can challenge the custody evaluator’s findings to remedy the situation.
Put the Evaluator on the Witness Stand
One method you can use to challenge the evaluator's report is to put them on the witness stand as quickly as possible. Your attorney can conduct a cross-examination to discredit the evaluator's qualification and handling of your case.
The goal here is not to allow the report to sit unchallenged for too long. Otherwise, the judge might make decisions based on the evaluator's recommendations. After all, there's a general belief that evaluators are experts, and no one expects them to make errors, unless proven otherwise.
Hire a Rebuttal Expert
Another way to make the court disregard the evaluation report is to hire a second child custody evaluator to dispute the findings. Known as a rebuttal expert, they will highlight the initial findings' deficits and provide your attorney with solid points for cross-examination.
The first step you should take is to subpoena the initial custody evaluator's report and get it to the rebuttal expert. The expert won't have to conduct a new evaluation. Instead, he'll review data from the previous one, criticize the findings, and give new recommendations, hopefully in your favor. Here are specific things the rebuttal expert should look out for:
- The initial custody evaluator's qualifications: for instance, evaluators should have a degree in a mental health field. They should also have specialized training in child welfare and development, child custody laws, and policies relating to custody evaluations.
- If the evaluator was objective, fair, and accurate in their work
- If they used a reliable and valid assessment instrument
- If the evaluator's opinions were based on information and data obtained through the application of reliable principles and methods rather than formulations
- If the evaluator contacted valid collateral informants and used any information from them
- Any statement that discredits you with no supportive evidence or data
It is vital to hire a rebuttal expert that'll be more convincing than the evaluator on the witness stand. Your attorney will likely collaborate with the expert and map out the essential points to hit during the testimony.
Furthermore, submit a written report from the rebuttal expert to the judge. This document will provide more details than the testimony. Instead of waiting until the middle of your trial for the judge to hear the rebuttal testimony, the written piece will give the judge a heads up.
It's vital to choose the right custody evaluator from the beginning so as not to encounter difficulties. However, if you don't like their evaluation report, you can challenge the findings and recommendations. Contact our child custody attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny to discuss a way forward. Send us an email via our contact form or call us for a private evaluation.