Going to court to fight for sole custody or a greater parenting role triggers an extensive,
expensive evaluation process. Rather than relying only on the testimony of two parents who each have their own biases and agendas, the court will give considerable weight to the objective findings of an independent custody evaluator. Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., understands that you want to protect your children and preserve your relationship with them. We handle all facets of child custody and visitation, including contested custody proceedings. Our attorneys practice in the family courts of San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and the greater Bay Area.We provide honest and realistic counsel regarding custody litigation. We will help you explore out-of-court solutions, while guiding you into the most favorable position for trial, in case you decide to proceed in court.
“I was very fortunate to find the Schoenberg Family Law Group. I was treated with respect and right away my questions were answered. I was told since the beginning what was possible in my case avoiding unnecessary costs. I was given a budget which was reasonable and when it was necessary to go over it, Debra tried to cut expenses wherever was possible, but the most important element was their high standards were never lowered.”
— Anonymous testimonial (Read more about what our clients say.)
Child Custody Evaluations
A custody evaluation (also known as a family evaluation, forensic evaluation or Section 730 evaluation) is a formal process required by the courts before a custody determination can be made. In California, psychologists typically perform these evaluations. The evaluator must be a neutral and impartial professional, who does not have an existing counseling relationship with either parent or with the child. The attorneys will agree on an evaluator in most cases. If not, each side will submit a list, and the judge will choose one.
The evaluation process entails standardized tests; individual interviews with each of the adults and the children; observations of each parent interacting with the children; and collateral contacts with relatives, teachers, and others who may have insight into the parenting dynamics. The evaluator is not concerned with assessing which parent is “better” or who is unfit to parent, but which of any number of possible custody arrangements would serve the best interests of the child.
Custody evaluations typically take three to four months, and cost approximately $10,000 to $15,000. The evaluator will issue a lengthy report that outlines specific recommendations regarding custody. Judges may disregard or alter any recommendation, but courts tend to adhere fairly closely to the recommendations in issuing orders. If you move forward with a custody evaluation and a subsequent trial, you must be prepared to have the court adopt the evaluator’s recommendations. The court’s decision will be final and binding, whether or not it seems fair or practical to you. It will govern your life and shape your children’s lives for years to come.
Negotiation Or Litigation
We strongly encourage clients to negotiate in
mediation, formal meetings and letters between attorneys, and even directly with each other, to fully or at least partially resolve custody disputes. In many cases, the custody evaluator’s report catalyzes settlement discussions; once confronted with the evaluator’s recommendations, and thus knowing how the court will likely rule, parents often have incentive to turn toward each other for the answers to custody questions. To avoid the additional cost and acrimony that trial brings, the parties may become open to compromise on custody, visitation, and the parenting plan.
Debra R. Schoenberg leads a team of trial lawyers who will fiercely advocate for you on custody, whether in negotiations or in court. We understand that the stakes are high, and we can provide valuable perspectives and insights from our collective years of trial practice. Like you, we want the best for you and your family.
Let’s Discuss Child Custody Evaluation And The Options
Custody disputes evoke strong emotions and opinions. You need to know what to expect. We invite you to contact us online, or call us at 415.834.1120, to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. Our firm strives to preserve your dignity and humanity, while helping you protect your interests and achieve your goals.