Understanding Forensic Evaluation Reports In Child Custody Disputes

If there is a child custody dispute, the Court may order that a forensic evaluation be conducted. A forensic evaluation is an evaluation done by a psychiatrist who will then produce a forensic report for the Court.

The psychiatrist, who will sometimes be referred to as the “forensic evaluator” will consider the factors in determining who should be the custodial parent. In addition, the psychiatrist will determine what is in the best interest of the children as it relates to child custody and parenting time (visitation).

The psychiatrist will typically see the children alone and will observe their interaction with each parent. They usually will also see each parent alone and may give certain psychiatric tests to each parent and sometimes to the children.

The psychiatrist, unlike a court, can consider almost anything in rendering their report. This would include considering hearsay evidence. They could also consider unverified Facebook posts or other social media postings.

A forensic evaluation is typically very expensive. It can also take a long time to obtain one. This is why forensic evaluations are not done in every divorce where there is a child custody dispute.

As stated above, once the psychiatrist completes their evaluation, they will produce a forensic report. The report will usually be very extensive and very long.

Now that you have a forensic report – can you read it? The answer, at least in Suffolk and Nassau Counties is generally “no”. In New York City and in most other parts of New York, the answer is “it depends on the Judge.”

No matter where your divorce is, your attorney has an absolute right to read the forensic report.  Your attorney, while reading the report, can take as many notes as they want. However, at least on Long Island, your child custody lawyer may not make a copy of the report and they will not be given a copy of the report.

Yet, virtually every Long Island Judge will not allow the parties to read the actual report. The Court will allow the attorney to discuss the contents of the report with their client. The attorney can also show their client their attorney’s notes.

What if you do not have an attorney, and you are representing yourself pro-se? Although, there is no reported case on this fact, it would seem that a person representing themselves, would have the opportunity to read the report.

David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office has represented and helped numerous clients in their divorce and in their child custody disputes.  David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office has the experience to guide you through your divorce.  If you need an experienced Long Island family lawyer, please contact David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office at 631-239-1702 or email at david@dbnylaw.com. We have offices in Northport, Garden City, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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