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When Should a New York Court Order Forensics in Child Custody Cases?

January 4, 2018

Agreements regarding child custody are some of the more prominent concerns of parents who are undergoing a divorce. The parent who is allowed to retain full custody of the child is usually selected either by agreement of the parties by the court of law, depending on which parent is better for the interests and development of their child. Often, when parents cannot agree on who should have custody of the child, forensic evaluation is called in. This kind of assessment is used to determine who would be the better parent or guardian to the child and includes a series of psychological tests and interviews to assess the mental state of both the parents, as well as the child. Sometimes, home visits are also a part of the entire process of selecting a guardian to gain that child’s custody.

Ordering Forensic Evaluation

Court’s don’t always order forensic evaluations when trying to determine which parent should rightfully get. They only request this form of assessment when there are disagreements between the two parties about the custody of the child, and where there are specific factors that are brought up, preventing either parent from gaining custody of the child. The court usually looks at all the evidence presented in front of them and then issues a statement granting one parent complete guardianship of a ward. However, in cases where there are a lot of disagreements and claims on either end, the court can ask for a forensic evaluation to determine which parent would be better for the upbringing and development of the child in question. These forensic assessments may be asked for by the court, even if none of the involved parties make any injunctions or requests for it. It is a factor that is usually left entirely to the court of law to decide upon.

Factors Affecting Child Custody

There are many factors that courts like to look at when trying to decide which parent to grant custody to. One of those elements is the living situation of the parents, and their relocations, if any. If a parent is living in a part of the town or city that is close to the child’s current school, while the other is moving across the country, the court most likely will order that the child stays in the area closest to their school to not disrupt their education. However, this too can be changed depending on other determinants that the court may ask for. Even if geographically, one parent is in a better-situated locality, they can be denied custody is allegations of any form of emotional or physical abuse are brought up. This factor may also be determined by the person’s history and current mental and physical state, and if accounts of drug or alcohol abuse are presented along with evidence to substantiate their claims.

The court will always select a parent depending on what is best for the interests of the child. A forensic evaluation is an essential task that courts undertake to help understand the situation that both parents are in, to come to a well formulated and evidence-based solution for the care of the child.

Conducting The Forensic Evaluation

When a forensic evaluation is prescribed by the court of law,  a person appointed by the judge is sent to the home of the parents. This person selected may be a social worker or a psychologist who will then evaluate the parents and the living conditions of the house. The person assessing the situation may ask to meet with the parents and the child, independently of one another. They can also ask to talk to other people associated with the parties like other family members, friends and sometimes even the school that the child is in, and their teachers. The evaluators are advised to not come to a final decision regarding the preferred custodian of the child but serve to merely write down observations of the workings of the household and their fitness level to take care of the child.

Not all cases of child custody involve forensic evaluation. It is only carried out in cases where serious allegations are made which may affect the guardianship of either one of the parents. This is also only done if there isn’t enough evidence to substantiate these claims, however severe they might be. Courts always work around the model of having enough proof and only then proceeding to grant guardianship to one of the parents.

Special Instances

One of the instances in which a court can order a forensic evaluation is there is a certain amount of pressure on the court to resolve the case as quickly as possible. This mainly happens if there is a child custody battle that has been going on for an incredibly long time, which has then evolved into having a negative impact on the child that is involved with the case. This, however, is left up to the courts to decide on and enforce, especially if there are no claims from either party or if no one is asking for a forensic evaluation to be conducted.

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