|I recently received an email from an attorney friend of mine who doesn’t handle family law matters.
Here’s how it started: “I have a friend going through a divorce, and he asked me for leads on a child custody evaluator.”
Here was my response:
“I wish I could offer a simple answer. First of all, getting the right evaluator in place is extremely important, as your friend seems to understand. Second, there are very few good evaluators still handling child custody matters (I’ve represented some [who used to do it and were excellent] before their licensing board because custody cases are generally insane and someone is always unhappy). And third, the ones who do still perform evaluations charge MANY thousands of dollars and take 6-12 months or longer to provide the evaluation.
Also, it is important to ensure an unbiased child custody evaluation by avoiding an evaluator with a history of anchoring, gathering unbalanced information, conformity bias, and personal bias. There are various factors in every custody case, such as the age and gender of the children, the circumstances surrounding the divorce, etc., which might affect the choice. As such, selecting a child custody evaluator to fairly assess all the factors in a custody case is imperative.
When I need to choose a custody evaluator, I consult with Dr. John Zervopoulos, a forensic psychologist and lawyer who used to be the best custody evaluator in Dallas before he discontinued that service. Since then, John has focused his practice on consulting with family lawyers when their cases involve mental health issues and expert evaluations and testimony. Among his services, John critiques the work of experts and helps lawyers develop effective deposition and trial examination questions of those experts. I would recommend that your friend ask his lawyer to retain John to consult on the case from now through the end or at least review the case facts with John and let him suggest the best evaluator (or probably a list since the other side has to agree) for your friend’s situation.”
Although there are some good custody evaluators in this area, the cost and length of time to get a report are often not feasible. As a result, many people choose not to get an evaluation though an evaluation could provide extremely helpful information to parents, attorneys, and courts. Without an evaluation, parents aren’t as equipped to meet the needs of their children and help them succeed in the world.
Not every dispute between parents about their children requires a custody evaluation. There are many other ways to resolve parenting issues, such as Collaborative Divorce, Parenting Facilitation or Parenting Coordination, Mediation, etc.
However, when a child custody evaluation is needed, it is important to select an effective, affordable provider who can provide an evaluation in a timely manner. Though the North Texas and Dallas community has a limited selection of such providers, consulting with a competent child custody attorney and experts recommended by the attorney will put you in the best position possible for a good outcome.