Child custody evaluations are a very common process used Louisiana’s family court system when the family situation is complex and decisions about child custody and visitations are not easily reached. The purpose of a custody evaluation is to ensure that the best interests of children are emphasized during difficult family transitions. During a custody evaluation, parents benefit from having a trained mental health professional help identify problems impacting themselves and their children.
This process is often a highly stressful experience for parents. This page contains information to help you understand what goes into a child custody evaluation and prepare for the process. You can obtain more information by calling our office and speaking directly with one of our trained mental health professionals who conduct custody evaluations, (504) 754-6863 or emailing our CEO at Josienne@counselnola.com.
What is a child custody evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is a process where a mental health professional evaluates you, your child, and your co-parent in your natural environments (e.g. home, school, and community) in order to make a recommendation to the court regarding custody and visitation. Child custody evaluations can occur for a number of reasons. The most common reasons for bringing about a child custody evaluation is if co-parents cannot come to an agreement on the details of the custody of their child(ren) or if one or both co-parents believe that their current custody agreement does not meet the needs of their child. In both cases, a child custody evaluation must be ordered by a family court judge.
The child custody evaluation process.
Our trained Custody Evaluators gather important information about you and your family through interviews and observations to determine the best interest of your child(ren). In order for our staff to make this determination, we will typically use the following methods:
- We conduct multiple interviews with each co-parent separately.
- We conduct multiple interviews with the child(ren) involved in the case.
- We observe each co-parent as they interact with the child at our office and in the home setting.
- We may conduct interviews with others involved with the family such as teachers, health care providers, coaches, faith leaders, and pediatricians.
- We may choose to recommend psychological testing on anyone in the family.
- We review previous court and legal activity regarding the divorce and custody case.
Based on the information that is gathered from these discussions and observations Counsel NOLA’s evaluator will generate a holistic report of the family strengths and challenges to pass along to the judge hearing the case. This report will include all of the evaluator’s findings and recommendations regarding how custody should be decided.
What does “best interest of the child” mean?
The concept of the “best interest” of children is vague and subjective. To help parents understand, Counsel NOLA believes in the following values and use them in our approach during the custody evaluation process. We believe:
- The best interest of the child is usually served when they are allowed to love and maintain relationships with both parents.
- Children need to be safe, secure, and protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
- Children of different ages have different requirements that need to be considered in parenting arrangements and the structuring of home, school and social environments.
- Children thrive with structure and continuity.
- Children do best when there are reliable and realistic schedules that allow them to depend on and look forward to spending time with each parent.
- Children do best when parents support a relationship with the other parent.
Counsel NOLA Custody Evaluators
Counsel NOLA employs Licensed Mental Health professionals to conduct custody evaluations, each of whom has received additional training in Play Therapy and Child Development. Our staff has been trained and has conducted family assessments for the Department of Children and Family Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice across multiple parishes in Southeastern Louisiana.
Fees and Payment.
The fee for the minor child or children who are the subject of the custody evaluation is required at the time of the initial joint parent interview to initiate the process. Interviews must be paid when conducted. Parents are encouraged to suggest possible interviewees, but the final decision with regard to who will be interviewed rests solely with the Evaluator. Full and final payment of all fees must be received prior to the release of the final written report to any party.
Counsel NOLA supports three ways in which courts order the parties, or the parties agree, to share responsibility for payment of the fees incurred in preparation of a Custody Recommendation Report:
(1) one parent bears the total cost,
(2) both parents share equally in the total cost, and
(3) one parent bears the portion of the costs associated with their side of the family, and the other parent bears the portion of the costs associated with their side of the family and any mutual costs are split in half.
It is required that Counsel Nola receives written confirmation before beginning the evaluation process of which method of fiscal responsibility will be used in your case.
Standby/Court Appearance by the Evaluator: If a party requests or subpoenas the evaluator to appear in court, the fee is $600, payable in advance by the requesting/subpoenaing party. Fees for standby are $350 for each day.
Cancelled Appointments: Any party who schedules an appointment and fails to appear or fails to call and speak to the evaluator 24 hours in advance of the scheduled appointment will be billed an additional $150 for a missed appointment. If a request is made by a parent that a third-party be interviewed and the third-party fails to provide 24 hours notice of their inability to keep their appointment, the parent who requested the party be interviewed will be charged the $150 missed appointment fee regardless of who is designated financially responsible for preparation of the custody evaluation report.
Services rendered are not considered health services; therefore, the Evaluator will complete no claims for health insurance reimbursement.