Shockingly, it could. A recent Associated Press article* highlighted the scary truth about third-party evaluations and their effect on child custody disputes. In the case of the Schorr family, Mr. Schorr had a disagreement with his 5-year-old son over where they would eat dinner. The 5-year-old wanted McDonald’s, but Mr. Schorr felt that his son was eating too much junk food. Naturally, a tantrum ensued and Mr. Schorr issued an ultimatum—no McDonald’s or no dinner—period. The stubborn child decided he would rather not eat than choose a healthier alternative, so Mr. Schorr took the child home to his mother who had physical custody of the child.
In response to this incident, the child’s mother alerted the court of the disagreement. In turn, the court hired a psychologist to evaluate the situation, and that psychologist determined that Mr. Schorr was incapable of caring for his 5-year-old son. As a result, the psychologist urged the court to curtail Mr. Schorr’s visitation with his son, the court concurred. As a father, Mr. Schorr had no idea that denying his son junk food could eliminate his visitation time with his son.
In family law, it is important to know that persons other than the judge can have a significant impact on your case. In the event of a dispute, the court can appoint psychologists and other professionals to determine what is in the child’s best interests. The court will give deference to these court-appointed experts.
It is therefore very important to make a good impression with the evaluator. If you do not obtain a favorable recommendation, you can hire your own expert to rebut the recommendations. In the case of Mr. Schorr, he ultimately filed a defamation lawsuit against the court-appointed expert and likely brought in his own psychologist to dispute the damaging determination.
The family lawyers at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri, LLP have a wealth of experience in child custody cases and know a number of qualified evaluators that could make a difference in your case. If you have any questions about child custody, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists (as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complex Family Law proceedings and are happy to offer you a free consultation.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*Jennifer Peltz, “Suit: NY dad criticized for denying son McDonald’s”, Associated Press, Nov. 8, 2013.