Most Long Islanders are aware that Nassau County and Suffolk County Courts use the “best interests of the child” standard when determining child custody and visitation issues. This means that courts look at the totality of the circumstances, including home environment, parenting ability, support systems, proximity to school and activities, and other factors, to determine what is truly in the child’s best interests.
Courts Can Call In Outside Professionals to Determine Best Interest of Child
Sometimes, a judge is not in a position to make an in-depth analysis of the child’s circumstances, and other professionals must get involved. Professionals such as psychologists and social workers are often tasked with reporting back to the court with findings and recommendations about the parents and home environments that will help the court determine custody and visitation.
What Does a Child Custody Evaluator Do on Long Island?
A child custody evaluation often involves a forensic expert meeting with the parents and children. The evaluator is a trained professional and conducts his or her role with objectivity, meaning that there should be no bias toward one parent or the other. The evaluator will look closely at factors such as how the child behaves and interacts with one parent versus another and with both parents together, and will look at the atmosphere at both parents’ homes. The evaluator may also interview the children’s doctors, teachers and other caregivers to help them to form a comprehensive view of the circumstances.
What Does the Child Think, and Why?
The evaluator may also meet privately with the child depending upon their age and maturity. In some cases, the evaluator will discern the child’s preferences for custody and visitation and determine whether these are based on factors that speak to best interests, rather than a preference based on other factors such as parental persuasion or more TV and candy at one house versus the other.
Once the evaluator makes a full assessment, he or she will write a report that is distributed to the court and the parties involved. The evaluator may be asked to testify and in that case will be interviewed by both sides’ attorneys in the courtroom.
Child Custody Evaluations Are Serious Business
If you have a Child Custody Evaluation in your case, you will need to be prepared. Be sure to take the interview seriously, dressing appropriately and being kind and respectful to the evaluator. The evaluator’s report is given considerable weight by the court and the professionals can strongly influence the judge in deciding your case. It is important to be honest and sincere, even if you are nervous. Be forthcoming with your responses and prompt about providing any additional documentation requested by the evaluator. If you are in the presence of your children, be attentive to their needs. Remember that now is not the time to play the blame game with the other parent, or to discuss the other parent’s shortcomings. Instead, focus on your own parenting abilities and love for your children. The evaluator is a professional and will recognize that you are under stress and may be nervous, but they will likely also notice if you are lying or deflecting onto the other parent. Do your best to stay focused on your parenting strengths and your children’s needs; this will help you put your best foot forward in the interview.
Child Custody Evaluations Can Be Expensive & Stressful on Long Island
On Long Island, child custody evaluations can be ordered by the court or they can be requested by a party. With that being said, a forensic evaluation and report can be expensive and also stressful. Accordingly, take care to consider whether a child custody evaluation is necessary in your case. It may place more anxiety on yourself and your children than necessary.
Resolve Your Child Custody Issues Outside of Court, if Possible
It is always preferable to resolve your child custody and visitation issues outside of court if possible. Litigation can result in all of your family issues being aired out in court — this is something that most would like to avoid. An experienced Long Island divorce mediator can help you to do so in the most efficient way possible, sparing your family of excessive time, money, and stress. Even if you do not think your spouse will negotiate or compromise, most couples who have gone through mediation will tell you that it is worth a try.
Questions About Child Custody and Visitation on Long Island?
To learn more about what you need to know about Child Custody on Long Island, visit this page on Child Custody or contact us at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary consultation.
Contact an Experienced Long Island Family Law Firm for Help with Child Custody & Visitation
The Long Island Divorce and Family Law Office of Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. can help you with all of your Long Island Divorce and Family Law matters, including Child Custody and Visitation. If you have questions about child custody or visitation, or are interested in divorce mediation to resolve your divorce or family law matters, contact our office today at 631-923-1910 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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