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Resolving disputes creatively

Using forensic evaluations in a child custody dispute

There are many difficulties that parents in New York face while raising children. There are many choices that need to be made and every child is different. What works for one child may not work for another child. Because of this fact, there is not just one right way to be a parent. Oftentimes, each parent may even have different ideas on how to handle certain situations. Many times, the parents will compromise on what to do, but this is not always the case, especially when the parents are going through a divorce or are separated.

Parents going through a divorce will have to make determinations on child custody and parenting time. Custody is simply decision-making for the children. So, if parents cannot agree on what decisions to make for the children, they could end up in a contested custody dispute. This can result in one parent receiving sole legal custody of the children and having the authority to make the final decisions. However, it can be difficult in some situations to determine which parent should have sole custody.

In these situations, the judge may order that a forensic evaluation to be completed to help assist the judge in making these decisions. A forensic expert is appointed to do the evaluation and this expert is usually a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker. The expert will meet with the parents, the children and other people with significant relationships with the children to help get a bigger picture of the children's lives and ultimately what is in the best interests of the children. The expert will also test the children and parents to determine if there are any mental health or learning concerns which need to be addressed.

Child custody disputes in New York can be contentious and difficult to decide. Ultimately, it is the judges who make the decisions, so they may appoint a forensic expert to gather more information in order to make more informed decisions.

Source: www.nycbar.org, "Child Custody & Parenting Plans" accessed on March 27, 2018

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