Recent changes in the legislation as related to child custody evaluations require greater scrutiny in determining whether someone is qualified to be a child custody evaluator. The 2015th Legislative Session established qualifications for an expert to be appointment as a custody evaluator. The following information is helpful and necessary in determining whether an evaluator is trained and qualified to conduct the evaluation. If a child custody evaluation has been ordered in your case, you should ensure your attorney does the following to ensure you have a trained and qualified person conducting your evaluation according to the new child custody evaluation statue (TFC Section 107.101).
1. Get a Resume
It may sound elementary, but your attorney should ask the evaluator for a Curriculum Vitae/Resume.
2. Check Evaluation Experience
Confirm that the evaluator has a minimum of two years full-time experience in conducting contested child custody evaluations. If not, ensure that the evaluator has conducted a minimum of ten contested custody evaluations under the supervision of a qualified professional. Your attorney should also ask how many contested child custody evaluations the evaluator has completed to date. If the evaluator has conducted adoption evaluations and child custody evaluations, request that they identify the number of cases for each category.
3. Check Trial Experience
Additionally, your attorney should ask the evaluator the number of times he or she has testified and/or has been deposed in contested child custody proceedings. On average, professionals who complete evaluations tend to testify on ten to twenty percent of their cases, including depositions.
4. Check the Percentage of Work
Your attorney should determine what percentage of the evaluator's practice is dedicated to child custody evaluations and/or forensic work. If the evaluator engages in other forensic work, inquiring as to work other forensic work.
5. Find Out the Total Costs
Determine the fees to be charged by the evaluator, to include any retainers required, the evaluatorr's hourly rate, as well the evaluator's rate to testify in court or at a deposition. The average range is extreme and can be as low as $1,000 per evaluation and as high as $20,000 plus per evaluation. In determining whether an evaluation should be conducted in your case, you should be mindful of whether you can actually afford the evaluation.
Texas's new custody evaluation statute has placed Texas family law on the cutting edge nationally. Texas is one of the few states with an actual statue related to child custody evaluations. This new statue was written to assist attorneys in effectively evaluating custody evaluators PRIOR to their appointment. You should make sure your attorney is knowledgeable about the new statute and is using it effectively to ensure you get a fair and professional custody evaluation.
If you have any further questions, you can contact us at www.the palmerlawfirm.com
SOURCE: "Direct and Cross of a Child Custody Evaluation Expert", 42nd Annual Advance Family Law Course
Attorney Sean Y. Palmer has over 19 years of legal experience as a Texas Attorney and over 25 years as a Qualified Mediator in civil, family and CPS cases. Palmer practices exclusively in the area Family Law and handles Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Adoptions, and other Family Law Litigation cases. He represents clients throughout the greater Houston Galveston area, including: Clear Lake, NASA, Webster, Friendswood, Seabrook, League City, Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Porte, La Marque, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, Kemah, Pasadena, Baytown, Deer Park, Harris County, and Galveston County, Texas.