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Requesting a Psychological Assessment in Custody Case

Child protection services worker visiting caucasian woman with two adopted children

New Jersey courts will consider a wide range of factors when making a determination regarding child custody. If the parties simply cannot come to an agreement, and the court believes that a psychological evaluation would aid in the process, the parties may be subjected to a child custody evaluation. Read on to learn about the child custody evaluation and psychological assessment in New Jersey child custody cases. Reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey child custody and parenting time attorney with any questions or for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

Child Custody Evaluations in New Jersey

A child custody evaluation is a process in which a trained mental health professional conducts a psychological review of the parties to a custody dispute to aid the court in deciding child custody. The psychologist or psychiatrist will conduct a number of interviews with each parent and, if requested or ordered, with the child in question, in order to put together a complete psychological profile of each party as well as their relationships to one another. The evaluator may also interview other parties including teachers, doctors, caregivers, therapists, and other adults in the child’s life.

The psychological profile is meant to be a codification of how each individual relates to one another, as well as to the public generally. It will cover the person’s attitudes, values, parenting styles, needs, expectations, and ability to communicate. The profile will address each parent’s fitness to raise children, as well as the ideal circumstances for the child in question. Whether the psychologist will interview the child as well as the parents will turn on factors including the child’s age, any special needs, and whether the court determines that evaluation of the child is necessary (including the child’s feelings about the divorce and the child’s preferences regarding custody).

When Will the Court Order a Psychological Assessment?

If the parents cannot agree to a custody and parenting time arrangement, they will each present their preferred arrangement to the court. The court will then make a determination based on its evaluation of the best interests of the child. The court will consider a variety of factors and evidence. One part of that evaluation may be a psychological assessment of the parents (and child).

New Jersey courts commonly order the parties to undergo custody evaluations if they cannot agree on child custody and/or parenting time. The court is especially likely to order evaluations if the parties raise issues concerning mental health problems, substance abuse issues, or special needs of the child. The court may order a psychological evaluation on its own following the cessation of mediation, or one may be requested by either party. No particular mental health problem needs to be alleged for the court to order the parties to undergo evaluations, however; the court will order evaluations whenever it deems them necessary to aid in the child custody determination.

The findings of the custody evaluation are not a final determination regarding child custody, but the court will take the results heavily into account when making a custody determination. If you are to undergo such an evaluation, it’s important to prepare appropriately but also to be honest throughout the process. Lying during your evaluation will count against your custody interests.

If you’re dealing with child custody issues or considering divorce in New Jersey, contact the knowledgeable and talented Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.

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