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Author Topic: 8.42 | Custody and psych. evaluations-- Experiences and preparation  (Read 12985 times)
JoannaK
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« on: May 11, 2008, 12:09:34 PM »

This Workshop is meant to be an exchange by those who have undergone custody or psych evals in an attempt to compare and contrast various ways in which this is accomplished.  It will also hopefully serve as a guide to those who will be undergoing such a process in the future.  

Please try to answer the questions and be reasonably unemotional, as some have found this a very frustrating process.

Feel free to answer as many or as few of these questions as you feel comfortable... also please feel free to only answer a part and come back and post the answers to a few more questions.  We will "paste" your responses together.  


1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process?  

2.  What state do you live in (optional)?

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation?

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)?

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end?

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation?

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations?

8.  Was there a home visit?

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records?

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed?

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked?

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember.

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... . a list of questions that were to be answered in writing?

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing?

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything as part of this eval?  Had either of you been diagnosed with anything before this evaluation?  

16.  Please summarize the results of the custody eval/psych eval.

17.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with?

18.  Did you wind up in court?  If so, how was the evaluation used in court?

19.  How long has it been since the parenting plan was put in place (or divorce was final) and how are things going?

20.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed?

21.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy?  

22.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process?  

23.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results?


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Matt
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2008, 01:45:48 PM »

The process is just getting started for me so I'll answer what I can, but I'm much more interested in answers from others who are looking back at theirs.

1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process?

I sought a CE.  The CE told me he wants MMPIs from both of us.  During the divorce process.

2.  What state do you live in (optional)?

AZ.

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation?

CE just started.  PE soon.

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)?

I am fronting the money, hoping to get some of it back from her later.  $5,000 retainer.  I hope that will be enough.

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end?

The CE says it will be 4 to 6 weeks.

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation?

My lawyer and the opposing lawyer talked and proposed a name to the judge.

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations?

I'm told my wife and I will each meet with him twice in his office;  the kids once in his office;  one visit to each home with the kids and one parent;  one or two meetings with each of my adult stepkids.

8.  Was there a home visit?

One in each home, with one parent and both kids.

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records?

Not yet.  But he asked for waivers so he can talk with my counselor, the kids' counselor, and our marriage counselor (and I readily agreed).  My wife, of course, doesn't have a counselor;  she has no problems.

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed?

Yes, but I'm not sure how extensive this will be.

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked?

Only one interview so far.  "Why did the marriage break up?  What do you see positive and negative about the other party's parenting?  What do you disagree about in parenting?  How would you describe both your parenting styles?"

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember.

MMPI.

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... .  a list of questions that were to be answered in writing?

Not yet.

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing?

Don't know yet.  But the CE told me the results will go to the lawyers not the parties.  I'm not sure if my lawyer will be able to give the report to me.

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything? 

Don't know yet.

16.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with?

Don't know yet.

17.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed?

Don't know yet.

18.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy? 

Don't know yet.

19.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process? 

Don't know yet.

20.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results?

This site.[/quote]
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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2008, 12:10:40 PM »

1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process? 

Custody evaluation, included psyc, eval/abuse tendency profile

divorce process

2.  What state do you live in (optional)?

OR

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation?

3 years

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)?

STBXh paid, as it was at his request, $4800

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end?

about 5 months

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation?

STBX demanded the eval, threatened court order, we cooperated to demonstrate cooperation, court had approved list of 3 or 4 indivuduals, PsyD

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations?

1 each, intake interview 2 hours, psyc testing 4 hours, observed parenting/play 1 hour, 3 oldest children interviewed each 1 hour and psyc testing 1 hour, exit interview 1 hour.

8.  Was there a home visit?

no

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records?

no,

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed?

Counselors, MC and any other adults living with the children

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked?

childhood history, dating early marriage history, discipline, child welfare, education, personal strengths and weaknesses, opinion of other parent strengths and weaknesses.

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember.

MMPI, NEO-PI-R, Rotter RISB, Parent child PCRI, Parent Awareness PASS, child abuse CAP, Alcohol screen, MAST, Abusive Behavior inventory.

For the children- Would Questionaire, Perception PORT, Bricklin perceptual BPS

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... .  a list of questions that were to be answered in writing?

yes

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing?

about 2 months, typed

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything as part of this eval?  Had either of you been diagnosed with anything since this eval? 

NO, NO

16.  Please summarize the results of the custody eval/psych eval.

Summaryize, I maintain physical and legal custody, continue to homeschool, father to have extended weekends perhaps th-eve to monday, father to accomodate homeschool, field trips, extracirricular, recommended parenting coach, parenting coordinator, guidelines for phone calls and email.

17.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with?

They were not, the judge decided that we would have 50-50, I was named custodial parent, alternating 7 day weeks, children to be enrolled in public school.

18.  Did you wind up in court?  If so, how was the evaluation used in court?

Yes, The report was presented, we were satisfied with the eval recomendation, the judge thought otherwise. XH did NOT like the report as it did not achieve his goal of finding me unfit.

19.  How long has it been since the parenting plan was put in place (or divorce was final) and how are things going?

3 years, terrible , PAS is rampant, children are isolated from me each week, multiple false abuse allegations, failure of father to facilitate children in school and extra activities, sports, dances, conferences etc. CPS and judge and T's have been instrumental in supporting me against the abuse, we hope to return to court soon to ask for relief, perhaps The initial custody eval, or EOW.

20.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed?

NO

21.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy? 

Satisfied that the eval came in my favor, very unhappy it was disregarded, essentially a waste of money, although it cost me nothing.

The process was intrusive and artificial, antoher forum to be bashed and manipulated by the STBX

22.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process?

Not to bother, it is  a crap shoot as to the benefit. The evaluator in our case walked the line of the status quo, was resistant to placing any responsibility toward bad behavior, no effective method to really share the extent of hostility STBX posessed. After it was said and done the judge made his own decision outside the guidelines of the evaloator.

23.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results?

None.
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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2008, 01:16:39 PM »

1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process?  psych eval and custody eval

2.  What state do you live in (optional)? occcured in Indiana

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation? 1989

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)? couple of thosand all told... copies of reports etc etc

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end? custody fight took 2 yrs

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation? Social Servixces/GAL chose the psych evaluator

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations? 1x together, 5x each ( 2x without kids present, 3 x w kids present)

8.  Was there a home visit?for mother yes, father NO!

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records? no

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed? no

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked? how i thought each child felt about me, how did each child feel about mother. I was asked to describe how i would meet the emotional needs of 5 kids

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember. MMPI, some thematic tests

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... .  a list of questions that were to be answered in writing? yes

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing? 4 weeks, we each got a single copy of our own test.  Had to subpeona other sides records

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything as part of this eval?  Had either of you been diagnosed with anything since this eval?  mother had several MMPI elevations, no diagnosis tho

16.  Please summarize the results of the custody eval/psych eval. the evalutor says children are bonded 55% mother and 45% father, and he recommended custody to mother due to the 'higher bonding".  Suprisingly he offered in a family where father goes to work every day and mother is stay-at-home, a 70 mother/30 father 'higher bonding' is  'typical'

17.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with? court ordered therapy for the children for 6 mos with a follow up review

18.  Did you wind up in court?  If so, how was the evaluation used in court? mothers side presented Evaluator w recommendation (pro mom), Fathers side during cross examination got him to state "I just think kids belong with their mother unless there are extreme circumstances"

19.  How long has it been since the parenting plan was put in place (or divorce was final) and how are things going? I presented my own 6 page parenting plan to the Judge, was monitored for compliace for first 6 mos

20.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed? yes, mother had to go live with her parents in MIchigan due to neglect charges filed by a hospital agains mother, then kids were placed in foster care when mother denied me visitation

21.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy?  Very happy with RESULT, the process was completely biased against me, VERY unfair to the children, took over 2 yrs, and cost about 300gs

22.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process?  1) If your a man, dont fight for custody unless you are willing to 'behave like Jesus walking this earth' for as long as it takes, knowing that usually the mother will be givein ALOT of leeway no matter what she does. 2) be well read on various methods of custody/psych eval, in order to dispute or argue adequately if you get a negative recommendation 3) focus on the positves of YOUR evaluations, let others speak to the negatives of your opponent, since it wont mean anything coming from you 4)be HONEST and really research what actually 'applies' to your case... what will really encompass the particular dynamics of your situation. 5) A genuine caring parent is always thinking of the children first... and presents from that mindset... and can seem gentle/humble/meek.(even tho its totally sincere). 6) the 'threatened parent' can/will be very aggressive, and often sidetrack 'descision makers' from what is important by making incredible claims that evaluators then have to go unravel... .it takes time, frustrates the evaluators... and you. 7) learn what the 'descision maker/evaluator' uses (from past cases) as basis... in my case... NONE of the psych tests, interviews, etc  mattered ... just simply... which parent has the 'higher bond' even if had been 51/49 pro mother... he was recommending custody to mother 8) you have to keep doing what you know to be the very best for your children. 9) its about THEM... not you or your ex

23.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results? even back in 1989, there were strong networks available to give you strategies or advice (most if it wasnt free tho).

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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2008, 04:44:36 PM »

1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process?  Custody evaluation only and it was part of a custody agreement

2.  What state do you live in (optional)?Kentucky

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation?Winter of 2006/2007

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)?$5000 and since I had sole custody I paid $3500 of it.

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end?My X dragged her feet and was also in jail part of the time so several months.

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation? Basically it was reputation but I did no research.

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations? I think we all met three times during the whole process

8.  Was there a home visit?NO!

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records?NO!

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed?One phone interview to the kids Principal and one phone call to the kids T.

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked?Basically they asked me the history and basic parenting questions and what I thought about my X.

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember. MMPI-2 I believe and another I can't think of off the top of my head.

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... .  a list of questions that were to be answered in writing?Yes, mostly related to parenting.

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing?About Three months.

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything as part of this eval?  Had either of you been diagnosed with anything before this evaluation? No diagnosis

16.  Please summarize the results of the custody eval/psych eval.Very biased and liberal. Did not listen to the tapes I had of my X telling my children to lie and steal. Refused to speak with members of family and neighbors. They stated that they favor women in custody because of the emotional bond. They picked and chose what they wanted to use in the evaluation and the SS worker they have employed was very sloppy losing tests etc. In the report they even had my childrens names wrong and tiles we were there.

17.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with?I took their advice and am still trying to but the court ignored the fact that they said my X would have to prove herself which she has not. My X has not taken their advice she is still her old self.

18.  Did you wind up in court?  If so, how was the evaluation used in court?Was used to show how caring and loving a Mom can be basically. Took what the children said on face value but still cautioned my X getting custody.

19.  How long has it been since the parenting plan was put in place (or divorce was final) and how are things going?Last Nov. My X is alienating and still has LOTS of animosity.

20.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed?My X failing to show up/incarcerated.

21.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy?Disgusted!

22.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process? Research how the evaluators rule and see if they have any biases. Know if they have a pattern when ruling and see what all they will look into.

23.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results?Basically beiing here I did no real research but I wish I had of.

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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2008, 01:10:30 PM »

1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process? 

Custody evaluation which included a psych evaluation

I initiated the CE, and the CE asked us both to do the psych eval.  (My wife took over a month to get around to it.)

This was during the divorce.

2.  What state do you live in (optional)?

AZ

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation?

May-July 2008

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)?

$5,000

I put up the money up-front and got half of it back from my wife in the settlement.

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end?

About 2 months.

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation?

Both attorneys conferred and chose an individual to propose to the court.  The court rubber-stamped it;  he was already on the list of approved CEs.

PhD

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations?

An initial meeting with me, then with my X

A home visit with each of us, with the kids, and some alone time with each kid at those home visits

Also interviewed each stepkid, though they are adults and not subject to the custody issue

Talked with a number of others - marriage counselor, my counselor, friends and neighbors we offered who have seen us with the kids

8.  Was there a home visit?

One at each home - about 2 hours

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records?

He asked us to sign waivers and I did;  he talked to my counselor.

My lawyer obtained my wife's medical records but they said little.

She had no "mental health" records;  she doesn't see a counselor since she doesn't have any problems.

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed?

Yes.  Their comments were summarized in the report.  I think those discussions were by phone and brief.

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked?

Much of the focus was on how my X and I communicated since the separation:  did we resolve issues reasonably.  I offered a number of e-mails showing that we usually did.  The CE did not understand how difficult it is to resolve issues with her;  by offering e-mails showing reasonable communications I may have undermined my case that she cannot be trusted to work things out practically.  (Those issues which were difficult were usually not the subject of e-mail exchanges.)

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember.

MMPI-2

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... .  a list of questions that were to be answered in writing?

No, but the CE accessed our responses to Uniform Interrogatories and other court documents.

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing?

About 2 weeks after my wife's MMPI.  A 15-page report.

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything as part of this eval?  Had either of you been diagnosed with anything before this evaluation?  

My MMPI said "He took the test honestly;  he has no psychological problems;  his personality type is more prone than most to substance abuse."

Her MMPI said "She faked the test, trying to look more moral and psychologically fit than she is;  she has several psychological problems;  psychotherapy is recommended."  I don't know if this constitutes a diagnosis.

16.  Please summarize the results of the custody eval/psych eval.

The CE recommended:

* 50/50 (what my X was asking for).

* 7/7 schedule (what my X was asking for).

* Psychotherapy for her.

* I keep seeing my counselor.

* The kids keep seeing their counselor.

* S10 be allowed extra time with me when appropriate;  numerous suggestions that he may be difficult for my X to manage as he matures.

* Exchanges at school.

* A colleague as a mediator if needed for parenting issues.

17.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with?

Pretty much adopted, with some tinkering I proposed to make it work in our situation.

A key "tinker" was including the colleague - a PhD - as "parenting coach" not mediator.  If my X is unreasonable it may be possible to subpoena a parenting coach to testify to that, but not a mediator.

18.  Did you wind up in court?  If so, how was the evaluation used in court?

No, court was a formality, but we only got the report 8 days before the trial date so settlement went down to the wire.  (But settlement of $ issues went down to the wire too.)

Settlement of custody issues was based on the CE's report, with a number of small refinements I proposed.

19.  How long has it been since the parenting plan was put in place (or divorce was final) and how are things going?

5 days as I type this.

Too soon to say but I am moderately optimistic.  I think it will work but I'm not looking forward to 8 years of dealing with this person.

20.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed?

Yes.

First, we agreed to marriage counseling - 2 different counselors - and put the divorce on hold during that.  Cost about 6 months.

Then, my wife dragged things out, refusing to meet with or without lawyers, til the legal process forced her to meet.

Custody mediation also took time but produced nothing - about 6 weeks.

21.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy?  

Hated the process.  Very biased against full custody for dads.

Unhappy with the results but I think they may work out over time;  my lawyer says the kids will ultimately "vote with their feet" and I already see that happening - more time with me on an ad hoc basis.

22.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process?  

I think I made 1 big mistake:  I neglected to offer any evidence or testimony showing that 50/50 is not the best situation for kids.  I think everybody knows that - who would want to grow up spending half their time in 2 different houses?  It's common sense and widely known among professionals that 50/50 doesn't work the best.  But I did not bring in an expert or any evidence to show that, to force the court to consider whether the CE's recommendation was sound.  By the time I realized this mistake it was too late.  I should have expected a 50/50 recommendation and been prepared to say "50/50 isn't best, and the CE's report shows that I'm the better parent by far."  I wasn't prepared to make that argument with evidence or testimony.  (My lawyer was negligent on this issue too.)

23.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results?

This site.
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« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2008, 02:31:30 PM »

About the 50/50, Matt:  In our evaluation, we were told ahead of time that the current thinking is that 50/50 is not great for kids... .   they need to have a primary home.  I do know people here who have worked out a 50/50 schedule and had it approved by the courts.  I think it depends on the jurisdiction.  Many people here have gotten 50/50 and it seems to have been a favored arrangement in that state or province.  I don't know; if you had tried to show that 50/50 wasn't in the best interest of the kids, your exw might have wound up with the lion's share of custody.   Hard to say.
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« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2008, 03:23:26 PM »

About the 50/50, Matt:  In our evaluation, we were told ahead of time that the current thinking is that 50/50 is not great for kids... .   they need to have a primary home.  I do know people here who have worked out a 50/50 schedule and had it approved by the courts.  I think it depends on the jurisdiction.  Many people here have gotten 50/50 and it seems to have been a favored arrangement in that state or province.  I don't know; if you had tried to show that 50/50 wasn't in the best interest of the kids, your exw might have wound up with the lion's share of custody.   Hard to say.

Totally 20/20 hindsight on my part.  Looking at he CE's report, I think if I had made the case that 50/50 won't work and the court agreed, I would have gotten primary custody.  My sense is that the CE is letting us each have enough rope to hang ourselves, and see which of us handles it best.  I know (from his comments on her psych eval) that he gets it regarding her issues, though his comments seem to point to something other than (maybe in addition to) BPD.  (I'll post on that another time.)

So if I had it to do over again I'd go for it, and work with my lawyer to make a strong case that 50/50 isn't best.  Now it's too late;  I'll need to make this arrangement work for at least a year or two, and look for an opportunity to propose a change either for both kids or maybe just for S10.

Thanks.
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« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2009, 09:20:40 PM »

A custody evaluation is still pending, but likely to be avoided... .the GAL told us we were within 48 hours of her ordering one due to dBPDw's dramatics last month... .(she threatened to change her petition over  ONE overnight in the agreement and wanted the right to travel with the boys (10mos and 4 years) abroad without my permission... .

So I have done all the preparation, and hopefully will never need it... .

I am attending coaching sessions with my T on how to frame my position with the CE and GAL... .thought it would be valuable to share... .



1)  Focus on my role as a father, the relationship I established with them, my parenting skills  Tell them what I believe is in the best interest of the kids (don't just come to them saying "she's nuts, can't deal with her, you figure it out"  Be proactive in sharing creative solutions and proposals.


2)  Wife's instability as exhibited by her behaviors (withholds information about the kids, refuses therapy, was absent for 6 weeks due to work/affair).


Following is a description of the process in my state... .highlighted in blue are the facts I was prepared to present

highlighted in red are the behaviors that you might be able to describe when talking to CE's, GAL, etc... .(AFTER you have made your case for #1)



A Child Custody Evaluation in the State, should focus on the Best Interest of the child(ren). A Child Custody Evaluation should only be conducted upon receipt of a court order, which may or may not contain specific issues to be assessed. Child Custody Evaluators range in educational background from Licensed Clinical Social Workers to Psychologists and Psychiatrists. editorial comment:  I know I have a small sampling size... .but when involved with counseling or custody issues with BPDW, I am 2/3 when Phd's are involved  and 0/4 with LCSW's.  If I ever have to attend anything related to the boys wellbeing again, I am going to insist that they have a psychology or psychiatry degree.  No more MA's or LCSW's.  She ate LCSW's for breakfeast!   The structure established for conducting a Child Custody Evaluation varies from clinician to clinician.

To begin a Child Custody Evaluation, the first and foremost rule should be to insist upon an evaluation of the entire family. An evaluator should not accept a request to conduct a custody evaluation of only one parent or of only the child without access to evaluate all family members. The evaluation of all family members would include the parents, the children, new spouses or significant others, grandparents and children from previous relationships or marriages, and other relatives living in the home.

The evaluator should clearly explore the issues involved in the case: The history and current status of the custody and/or visitation dispute, and if removal from the State is an issue. The evaluator should be familiar with the statutes of the Marriage and Family Law.

The non-confidentiality, purpose and procedure of the evaluation should be discussed with all parties.

The clinical assessment of each parent should include family background and history, personality features, emotional stability and present functioning. The evaluator should look for the patterns of behavior and how they evolve and develop from the family of origin.

1) The parent's individual history should include family background; if they were raised by both parents, the number of (and attachment to) siblings, education, health, employment, relationship capacity and stressful life events such as divorce or death in the family.

Family history of sexual abuse, DCFS involvEment due to child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, family history of substance abuse and Psychiatric illness.

2) The evaluator should assess the individual's mental status, emotional stability, frustration tolerance, mood, impulse control, relationship to authority, level of anxiety/depression, judgment and cognitive ability. The mental status examination should focus on specific areas such as whether or not any major psychiatric disturbance [editorial note:  I have been told that BPD is not considered  on its own as a MAJOR PSYCHIATRIC DISTURBANCE: as many of the behaviors can be viewed from afar as typical divorce behavior or just bad judgment.  That is why it is best to describe behavior, not worry about a diagnosis  This next sentence makes it a hard call for the CE, even if BPD is diagnosed or suspected.  I don't mean to say that BPD doesn't do these things, but the advice I have been given is that the behaviors stand better on their own than trying to justify the behaviors with a diagnosis... .just my opinion and my experience from a somewhat transparent BPDw with executive function}



The evaluator must assess if this person's condition in any way adversely affects the optimal physical, emotional and psychological functioning of the child or children at issue.



3) The marital history and precipitant of the separation or divorce should be explored
. The evaluator should explore what the parent is seeking, and what the current visitation or custody situation is at the present time.

4) The parent's perception of the child or children, including their birth, the depth of the parent's understanding and knowledge of child development.

The parent's availability and sensitivity and their capacity to perceive and meet the emotional and physical needs of the child(ren).



The nature and degree of parental involvement including involvement with the child's education, participation in school conferences and events.




The parent's ability to individuate the child(ren), and to tolerate and understand the child's negative behavior. This parental ability is necessary, since all children will misbehave and test their parents.


The capacity of the parent to respond to the child's emotional needs and provide for the child's physical needs.



Other parental issues include the parent's capacity for empathy, stability and psychological health as a parent, and the nature and degree of involvement with the child.


An exploration of the parent's method of discipline.



5) The parent should describe living and school arrangements for the if the court rules in his or her favor. The specific provisions for the care of the child, including arrangements for before and after school care.


Inquiry should be made with each parent for their proposal for visitation and sharing the child with the other parent. The evaluator should assess if the parent is willing to foster and encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child. Does the parent have insight as to how the divorce/separation affects the child. Is the parent able to describe problems and disagreements with the other parent and relate how they could have been avoided.

6) The evaluator should be able to recognize healthy child development, or when a child is unable to thrive because their emotional development is hindered or stunted by family problems, ineffectual parenting, or parents who are so overwhelmed by their own difficulties, they are unable to focus and attend to the needs of their children.

7) When the child's age and maturity is sufficient, the evaluator should interview the child individually. The evaluator should not ask the child to choose between his or her parents.

The child should be asked his or her feelings about the divorce and parents' separation. Explore with the child his or her opinion as to why the divorce is occurring.

Ask the child to relate what each parent told him or her about the interview with the evaluator. Attempt to determine if coaching has occurred.

Ask the child about school, activities and peer relationships and if the parents' are involved in school and outside activities.

Determine the child's relationship with siblings, extended nuclear family and other persons of importance in the child's life.

The evaluator must be attentive to non-verbal cues, especially with young children.

The evaluator must be aware of the child's desire to please a parent, parental pressures, and fear of losing a parent.

The child may feel he or she needs to protect one parent or both parents, and the child may wish not to be involved.

The child should be asked about parental limit setting, discipline and parental flexibility.

8) The evaluator should observe the child(ren) with each parent.

Additional sources of information are helpful but not always necessary. This may include, (1) Medical records from pediatricians, (2) School records, (3) Children's therapists, (4) Child care providers.



9) Where relevant or indicated, the evaluator should ask the parent(s) to sign releases for their individual therapy, marriage counseling, and psychiatric hospitalizations or substance abuse treatment.
The parent(s) would also need to sign a release of information for children under the age of twelve years.  [YOU SHOULD COME WITH ALL CONTACT INFO OF YOUR THERAPY AND PROACTIVELY OFFER TO SIGN RELEASES.  EVEN IN MARRIAGE COUNSELING, THE COUNSELOR WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE TESTIMONY ON WHAT YOU SAID, REACTED, AND TOOK DIRECTION

The evaluator should review necessary documents, pleadings, court orders and information supplied by the parties, including psychological, psychiatric and medical background information. Each party should be given equal opportunity to provide the evaluator with their understanding of the purpose of the evaluation, their viewpoint and desired outcome.

10) The custody evaluation report should be typed and include an introduction (the circumstances of the referral), procedures, (the nature of all clinical contacts, interviews, telephone calls and materials reviewed) Factual background, (The body of the report including family history, etc.)

Clinical Recommendations and Conclusions


This would include the evaluator's interpretation of the information and issues, interpretation of clinical interviews and a determination of what is in the best interests of the child.

The conclusions and final recommendation for joint or sole custody, the choice of residential parent or sole custodian, proposed visitation, parenting classes and therapeutic interventions for either parent or children.

The evaluator should never compromise his or her independence and objectivity. The evaluator should never provide counseling or therapeutic services for one or both of the persons being evaluated.

If it is not possible to make a decision as to which parent should have custody, the evaluator should say so. The evaluator should point out the strengths and weaknesses of both parties even when making a recommendation in favor of one party.

The evaluator should remember that they are writing the report to aid the court, not the party who hired them.
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2009, 03:42:03 PM »

Wow, this is like a graduate course on the subject, DW.

Maybe use this as the basis for workshop?
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2009, 05:27:26 PM »

Matt, I think I'm going to take the basic writing that DW posted above and add it to the beginning of this Workshop as an example of how a custody evaluation should be conducted.
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2009, 09:44:38 PM »

Matt, I think I'm going to take the basic writing that DW posted above and add it to the beginning of this Workshop as an example of how a custody evaluation should be conducted.

Amen.
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2012, 09:33:42 PM »

1.  Did you have a custody evaluation or a psych. evaluation or both?  (What was it called?)  Did you have a choice between a psych. eval and a custody eval?  Was this part of the divorce process or the post-divorce process? 

Both. Custody Evaluation with psychological testing ordered by the evaluator. I petitioned the court for the CE.

2.  What state do you live in (optional)? AZ

3.  How long ago did you have the evaluation? 2011

4.  How much did it cost and who paid (optional)? About $4k. I paid most.

5.  How long did it take from beginning to end? About 6 weeks.

6.  How did you choose who would conduct this evaluation?  What were the qualifications of the person/people who conducted the evaluation?

Judge appointed. Forensic psychology firm. Evaluator was a 40-something PhD.

7.  How often did you, your ex, or the kids meet with the evaluators and in what combinations?

Together once for 90 min. Separate once for 2 hours. 1 hour home visits. D14 had two hour in-office interview. 30 min in-office visit with D (one with each parent). Psych testing: 3 hrs me, 6+ hrs X. 1 hour follow-up interview, each separate.

8.  Was there a home visit? Yes.

9.  Were you or your ex required to submit mental health records? Yes

10. Were third parties (teachers, family members, friends, therapists and counselors) interviewed? Written statements.

11.  What were some of the things that you were asked? We were initially asked to put all allegations on table. He didn't want any to bubble up later. And we got chance to justify our POV and respond to each allegation.

12.  Which psychological tests were involved... as far as you can remember. MMPI-2, plus 4 others.

13.  Did you have an "essay" section... .  a list of questions that were to be answered in writing? We each had to write an essay about our relationship with D.

14.  How long did it take to get results?  Were the results in writing? Took a few weeks for results. 75 page written report.

15.  Was anybody diagnosed with anything as part of this eval?  Had either of you been diagnosed with anything before this evaluation? X was diagnosed with about 6 or 7 of the BPD criteria per the DSM-IV. There was no 'combined' diagnosis of PD, 'just' anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, addiction issues, abandonment issues, etc. I wasn't diagnosed with anything.

16.  Please summarize the results of the custody eval/psych eval. ":) has strong bond with father. Mother has psychologically harmed D. Mother needs ongoing therapy and help in re-connecting with D. Father has primary custody, majority visitation, final decision-making."

17.  How were the recommendations used in the parenting plan that you wound up with? The report was taken verbatim as the custody agreement.

18.  Did you wind up in court?  If so, how was the evaluation used in court? No. Settled just before court.

19.  How long has it been since the parenting plan was put in place (or divorce was final) and how are things going? 3/4 of year. We're no contact, so it's good for me. D still encounters some of her mom's behaviors, but has become strong enough to not let it affect the non-mom parts of her life.

20.  Were there any ways in which the process was delayed? X required SIX attempts to set up the first appointment with the CE. He laid down the law for her... .not a great first impression for her to make. The evaluator kept it on schedule.

21.  As a whole, what was your experience?  Were you unhappy with the process or the results?  Happy? Completely happy. Best thing ever, be/c it made X give up on fighting for custody, decision making, greater visitation.

22.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through this process? Have your documentation together and organized. As X made allegations, CE asked me for documentation, and as I provided it, he was able to classify each allegation as "refuted". And have your own allegations/concerns well organized. I had to establish the case for why the situation was unhealthy for D, rather than toss everything onto the table and hope the CE could make sense of it. And focus on behaviors rather than psychological disorders.

23.  What resources, information, or links have you come across that were helpful to you in either preparing for these evaluations or understanding the results? The stories here on bpdfamily.com from people who went down this path before me.

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