Family Coordination Services
What is custody evaluation?
When parents can’t agree on a parenting plan on their own or with the help of a mediator, they may be ordered by a judge to have a Child Custody Evaluation (CCE). Sometimes, the parents may choose to do this voluntarily.
A Child Custody Evaluation is conducted by one or more qualified mental health professionals who gather information and opinions regarding the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of each child. The evaluator will follow the court order by investigating and making recommendations that address the issues that may be raised in your particular case.
For example, the judge may order the evaluator to make recommendations about any or all of the following issues:
- Legal Custody: Who makes major decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare?
- Physical Custody: Where does the child live?
- Parenting Plan or Visitation: The schedule of when the child spends time with each parent.
- Supervised Visitation: Whether parenting time should be supervised, and if so, by whom, where, and for how long.
- Safety Issues: How to protect a child in cases involving allegations of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, or serious parenting deficits.
What happens during a CCE?
Depending on the Court’s order, the evaluator will conduct a full or limited scope investigation. This will include:
- Interviewing each parent separately;
- Interviewing step-parents or other adults living in the home who care for the child;
- Observing and/or interviewing each child (depending on each child’s age);
- Observing each parent and child together;
- Reviewing documents related to custody, including legal documents and police reports;
- Reviewing the child’s medical, dental, mental health, and school records; and
- Consulting with other professionals who have provided care for the child as necessary.
Special issues, such as allegations of abuse, questions of relocation, special needs of children, and chronic high conflict between households are addressed as well, with the best interest of the child kept as the focal point.
Our goal in child custody evaluations is to ensure that our recommendation to the Court reflects what is in the best interest of the child. Because families come to the custody evaluation process with a good bit of anxiety and tension, custody evaluation can feel like a daunting and scary experience. Therefore, it is important to make sure each person involved is fully informed of the process and knows that their concerns will be heard in order to achieve a successful outcome.
Since needs of children change over time, we will make recommendations based on those needs both now and in the future. Where we see opportunities to strengthen relationships between children and parents/caregivers we will build a plan to capitalize on this. We pride ourselves on bringing an atmosphere of professionalism to promote resolution for all involved in the family through cooperation.
Dr. Andre Judice
Dr. Andre Judice received her Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans in 2001, and has been in practice since 2000. She has worked as a psychotherapist in a wide range of settings, including substance abuse, brain injury rehabilitation, and partial hospitalization settings. She is a licensed Professional Counselor and a Marriage and Family Therapist.
Dr. Judice is a member of the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts. She is trained in collaborative divorce as well as child custody evaluations, and is also able to provide adoption studies.