Custody, or Home Study Evaluations are extensive forensic evaluations that are ordered by the court either during the initial divorce proceedings, or when one or both parents seek to change the type or frequency of custody with their child/children. The purpose of these evaluations is to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child/children.
In our office, both Dr. Todd Bennett and Dr. Joe Lipetzky are experienced custody evaluators. Each of them are considered experts in this field and have been conducting such evaluations for more than a decade. In addition to conducting child custody evaluations, both doctors have testified as expert witnesses in court on issues related to parental fitness and child custody matters. Dr. Bennett has also served as an expert and pro-reviewer for the Idaho Board of Psychologist Examiners regarding complaints against Idaho psychologists related to child custody issues.
Before you contact our office regarding a custody evaluation, be sure that a judge has ordered either Dr. Bennett or Dr. Lipetzky to perform the evaluation, as they only conduct such evaluations under court order.
- Several individual interviews with both biological parents or legal guardians.
- Individual interviews with those in step-parenting roles.
- Individual interviews with children (based on their developmental abilities).
- Parenting Questionnaires.
- Psychological testing of all adult participants. Testing of children will be conducted if determined to be necessary.
- Home visits and family observation at each parent's physical residence.
- Review of relevant documentation pertaining to your case.
- Possible interviews or phone interviews with other individuals (collateral contacts).
Your evaluator will prepare a thorough and comprehensive report outlining specific recommendations that can be incorporated into a parenting plan. Parents and their attorneys must remember that, as an expert of the court, Dr's Bennett or Lipetzky will understand and consider the concerns of the parents, but will make recommendations based on his perceptions of the child/children's best interests. Dr's Bennett and Lipetzky both adhere to the standards for child custody evaluations developed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the American Psychological Association.
If you have been ordered to follow up with either of these custody evaluators, you can follow the steps below to help the overall process run as smooth as possible.
Call our office at (208) 373-0790 and ask to speak with Shannon Russell regarding setting up your first appointment. Shannon is the Cornerstone office manager and the personal assistant to both Dr's Bennett and Lipetzky. Typically, the order for such an evaluation stipulates that each party make contact with our office within 5 business days from when the order was signed.
- If your appointed evaluator is Dr. Bennett, download and complete the following:
- Informed Consent Form
- If you have a partner living with you, or if you are engaged to be married, print out the following form and have that person complete it prior to their meeting with the Dr. Bennett.
- Stepparent Form
- If your appointed evaluator is Dr. Lipetzky, download and complete the following:
- Informed Consent Form
- If you have a partner living with you, or if you are engaged to be married, print out the following form and have that person complete it prior to their meeting with Dr. Lipetzky.
- Stepparent Form
The rest of the necessary paperwork will be the same regardless of which evaluator was ordered to perform your evaluation.
- If you wish for your evaluator to speak with other individuals, such as your children's teachers or witnesses of certain events, please fill out the collateral release form.
- Collateral Release Form
- Fill out one child history questionnaire for each of your minor children who are the focus of the current court's action in your case.
- Child History Questionnaire
- If you, your stepparent figure, or your child/children have been seen by a mental health provider within the past 5 years, fill out and sign one authorization to release information form for each counselor.
- Authorization to Release Information
- Bring these signed releases with you to your fist visit and our office will request those records directly from those counselors. If you and your spouse/ex-spouse met with a counselor for couples counseling, each of you must provide a signed release to our office. The psychological records we receive may be referenced in the final report, but the records themselves are not released to any other individual or agency to protect the confidential relationships between counselors and clients.
- Arrive 15 minutes early for your appointment time to ensure that your paperwork is in order. (if any of your paperwork is incomplete give yourself more time)
- Bring your retainer (if you were ordered by the court to pay part or all of the cost of the evaluation). The retainer to start a custody evaluation depends on the estimated size of your case, which can range from $4,000 to $5,000. This is often divided by the judge between the two parties. Ms. Russell will inform you about how much your specific retainer is prior to your first appointment. The final cost of your evaluation is determined by the number of individuals involved and other factors, such as travel distance and amount of documentation provided. Your evaluator can speak with you in more detail on this subject.
- Relax! Custody evaluations can be a high anxiety-producing event. Keep in mind that your evaluator is simply asking standardized questions to try and best uncover and understand the facts of a complex and highly emotional situation. The best thing you can do is be honest (even about the negative stuff) and understand that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. By the time most people are finished with their interviews, they report that it wasn't as stressful as they anticipated.
- It's okay to bring notes. It is normal to sometimes be unsure of dates, times, and specific details of events. Also, some people find it more effective to organize their points of concern as to not feel like they are "all over the place" during their interviews.
- Pace yourself. You will have several opportunities to talk with the evaluator, so you don't have to speak on every subject in the first meeting. You will have an opportunity to add information (even if in written format) up until the final report is started.