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FL Bar Family Law Section Commentator

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Dr. Evans provides parenting plan & timesharing evaluations (formerly referred to as child custody evaluations).  His evaluations are objective, comprehensive and conducted on a timely basis. In addition, his expertise on Parental Alienation helps us to identify alienation issues and concerns should they be present.


We conduct a full range of psychological and educational testing. We help identify:

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder;
  • Specific Learning Disabilities;
  • Emotional Disorders;
  • Anxiety Disorders;
  • Gifted Testing; and others handicaps.

Our typical SLD battery usually includes a one-hour developmental history and interview. Actual testing typically takes four to five hours whereas, gifted testing can range from 30 minutes to two and a half hours depending on the test.

Many parents seek evaluations for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). We perform a number of assessments that help identify behaviors that are consistent with AD/HD. We also perform a Continuous Performance Test that helps identify attention problems from a processing perspective. It is important to understand that symptoms of AD/HD can be associated with a number of other physical disorders beside AD/HD. A written comprehensive report is prepared which includes specific recommendations and interventions that can facilitate your understanding of the individual's learning style, and educational needs. We will work with your child's school and medical doctor closely in order to insure a correct diagnosis and develop the appropriate treatment plan.


When parents divorce the final divorce agreement , Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), must establish plans for parental responsibility, time sharing and access to the children, among other issues.  A parenting plan is usually submitted to the court for approval.  When parents disagree about timesharing, a judge will decide the issues of who is responsible for what parenting tasks and when each parent will be with the child.  In order to help a judge to decide these issues they may require the family to participate in a parenting plan and timesharing (i.e., a child custody) evaluation .  These evaluations provide detailed information about the family and helps a judge decide what arrangements will be in the best interests of the child or children.  It is helpful to understand the evaluation process.  This information can be helpful in preparing to participate in this important process. 


What is a parenting plan & time sharing evaluation? 

A Parenting Plan & Time Sharing Evaluation is: 

  • An objective assessment of the needs of the children

  • An objective assessment of each parent's ability to meet their children’s needs

  • An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each parent

  • Designed to help the family make positive adjustments to divorce

  • Attentive to past events, present resources and future needs of the family

  • Focused on the “best interests” of the children 

A Parenting Plan & Timesharing Evaluation Does Not: 

  • Determined fault or blame for the divorce

  • Take one parent’s side against the other

What Happens In A Parenting Plan & Timesharing Evaluation?


Interviews: an evaluation will include a series of interviews.  Parents should expect to talk to an evaluator alone, with the other parent and with the children.  An evaluator will give each parent the opportunity to present their issues and concerns regarding the children as well as concerns regarding each other. Conferences with both parents allow the evaluator the opportunity to assess parents’ capacity to co-parent.

The evaluator will probably also schedule joint interviews with each parent and the children as well as with the children alone, depending on their ages.  These meetings will allow evaluator to observe the relationships between family members. These evaluations require that both parents be involved in the process.  Be cautious of taking the children to their own separate evaluator.  Courts may consider these evaluations to be incomplete.  One sided evaluations may be a duplication of time and money and may subject are children to added stress.


Information gathering:  The evaluator may request your written consent to obtain school and health records, social service and police information and any other documents which contribute to the complete understanding of the family.  The evaluator may wish to talk with some of these people in order to understand how others see the issues.


Written Tests and Psychological Evaluations:  Psychological testing may be part of the evaluation especially when information about emotional and mental status of each party or that of the children would be helpful to the judge.  The evaluator will talk with each parent and may administer several assessments that provide additional data for the report.   


Who Is The Custody Evaluator?  The evaluator is usually a mental health professional who is in a professional and private practice or employed by an agency contracted to provide evaluation services for the court.  Evaluators have to be trained in the divorce process and its effects on families, as well as child development issues and the needs of children.  The evaluator’s job is to assist the court to determining the legal and physical custody of the children.  The evaluator will make an objective assessment of the needs of children.


Who Can Do Such Evaluations?

It is certainly understood that the decision of who conducts a parenting play/timesharing evaluation is so important. The best interests of the children who are exposed to high conflict divorces are truly at stake.  Among the professions who are, by statute, legally permitted to conduct such evaluations are Licensed: Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists and School Psychologists, among others.  For a more detailed discussion of who may conduct such evaluation go to EVALUATIONS.

How Can One Prepare For The Evaluation? 

  • Cooperate with the evaluator.  They are there to help the family and the judge to decide on what will be in the best interests of the children.

  • Separate marriage problems from parenting concerns.  There may still be a lot of hurt and anger toward the other parent, however, marital issues may not be relevant to timesharing issues.

  • Don’t look at the custody evaluation process as a “win/lose” situation.  This is a good time to try to put the past behind and focus on the future.

  • Parents can help their children by being open and honest with the evaluator.

  • The evaluator can be a resource of information. Ask about reading material, parent education classes, counseling and other help.

  • Keep appointments.

  • Organize school, health and other information that will be helpful.

  • Make notes of the questions that should be asked of the evaluator.

Will The Children Be Interviewed?

Evaluators routinely interview and observe children.  It is best if this can be done in a comfortable and not threatening environment.  The evaluator understands that children may be experiencing a range of feelings about the divorce.  Depending on the ages of the children, the evaluator may have children participate in structured play, draw pictures or tell stories in order to talk about their feelings. 


Parents often want to know, “will the evaluator ask my children where they want to live?” Children’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences are important.  However, the evaluator typically will not directly ask children to choose between parents.  This would not be fair to the children and only keeps them in the middle of the dispute.


What Happens To The Information?

Most custody evaluators will prepare a written report of their assessment.  If the case goes to trial, the judge or the lawyers may call the evaluator to be present to explain the report and their findings.  The report is intended to give the judge a clear picture of the family and to provide information about how the children’s needs can best be addressed.  Most evaluators will not make recommendations unless they have seen both parents and the children or have incorporated an evaluation from another professional who has seen the other parent when one parent is living too far away to participate in the evaluation.  Rules vary as to who has access to the report.  The report may be available to both parents or maybe restricted to the judge and attorneys.  In most jurisdictions it is considered a confidential document and can be ordered sealed by the court. 


What Does The Custody Evaluation Cost?

Ask your attorney or the judge about your responsibility to pay for the evaluation.  Costs vary from region to region.  Most professionals charge by the hour, with a retainer given in advance.  Sometimes the costs are divided between the parents. 


What Does Best Interests Mean?

Most courts and professional associations require that parental responsibility and timesharing decisions use the “best interests” standard.  Defining this term is a complex matter and definitions may vary.  However “best interests” generally means that:  

  • Children have a right to live with both parents and to have access to each parent without interference

  • While children benefit from an absence of conflict between the parents children do better if parents cooperate and work together

  • Children need to be safe, secure and protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse

  • Children of different ages have different needs.  A two-year old child may not need the same schedule as a ten-year old child.  The evaluator will consider children’s specific needs as well as their adjustment to home, school and social environments

  • Children need continuity.  Parenting schedules should be followed so the children can depend on and look toward the time with each parent

  • Children do best when parents support a relationship with the other parent.  Don’t ask children to choose between parents. 

If you are in need of an evaluation, please call our office and we will happy to discuss the process further with you.