In some contested divorces where both sides cannot agree on who should have custody of the children the Court or a Guardian Ad Litem can Order the parties to undergo a custody evaluation. The purpose of a custody evaluation is for a licensed therapist to make a recommendation to the parties, attorneys, Guardian ad Litem and the Court who should have custody and some supportive information and evidence as to why. Ultimately, the Judge has final say on who gets custody in a Georgia child custody case, but the results of the custody evaluations can be extremely persuasive to the Court and are often followed by the Judges.
The custody evaluation consists of several different components. Each parties take a psychological test and provide extensive information through a detailed and lengthy questionnaire about their background, their children, their perception of the issues in the case, and other relevant information. There is then an observational component where the therapist will observe the clients and their interactions with the children. There may be additional testing should substance abuse, parental alienation or other specific issues be brought up during the pendency of the case.
Since custody evaluations are ordered by the court and meant to be an evaluation, rather than done for purposes of treatment to either party, the results are not protected by any doctor-patient privilege and are fully admissible in Court. Therefore there are no confidential communications that occur during a custody evaluation that are protected by any type of privilege. It is important to remember that in order to use the privilege to protect your records, “the requisite relationship of (mental health provider) and patient must have existed, to the extent that treatment was given or contemplated.”
Making sure you understand the process of a custody evaluation in Georgia is extremely important, and you should consult with a skilled Georgia divorce attorney when faced with a custody evaluation. Counselors are human and have certain tendencies and methodologies they use in evaluating individuals, and attorneys who have represented many folks who have undergone custody evaluations can provide valuable insight into the process, the counselors, and how best to prepare and make the best impression.
If you have undergone a custody evaluation and the result is not favorable to you, then you will need the services of a skilled attorney to point out any flaws or inconsistencies in the custody evaluation, so that you can make sure the Judge has the whole story in Court.
Should you be faced with a custody evaluation we urge you to contact the skilled Marietta divorce and custody attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott. We have extensive experience with Georgia custody evaluations and can provide you valuable insight, and prepare you for what to expect.