My evaluation turned out poorly for me. Is there anything I can do?
If your evaluation was done improperly and you can prove it conclusively, there may be hope. If, however, you cannot show clearly how and where the improper procedures or practices were done, the court will be unlikely to do anything.
Courts are reluctant to ignore or disregard the recommendations made in the custody report and rarely deviate significantly from them.
If you believe your evaluation was done improperly, this article may be of some help:
What kinds of tests do they use in evaluations?
Evaluators use a variety of different tests depending on the nature of the evaluation and any allegations that may have been made by either party.
Most evaluations will include some sort of psychological or 'personality' test, such as the Minnestoa Multiphasic Personality Index (MMPI or MMPI II), the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III), or the Bricklin Perceptual Scales (BPS).
Some evaluators still use the Rorschach test, also commonly called the "Ink Blot" test. We don't feel that the Rorschach is an appropriate test when used in the context of a custody evaluation, and it's our position that people should not take the Rorschach during or as part of a custody evaluation.
If an evaluation has taken two years to complete, will the "status quo" be favored more than the recommendations in the evaluator's report?
Quite possibly. After some period of time, the status quo will be given a great deal of weight, often canceling out the recommendations in the evaluators report.
If custody is not already being shared equally to some degree and the evaluation takes more than six months or so to complete, the judge will often ignore the report, citing the "status quo" and "stability" factors as reasons for not altering the current custody arrangements.
What this means is that if one parent has temporary custody and works to delay or slow down the evaluation, they will more than likely retain custody regardless of the recommendations in the evaluators report.
Attorneys know this, and they'll use delays to their advantage. It's unethical, but it works, so they do it. This is another reason to vigorously insist on some sort of shared parenting during the separation or evaluation period.
How long should an evaluation take to complete? Is it a problem if it takes too long?
The time a parenting evaluation takes varies with the complexity of the issues being investigated. A "typical" evaluation takes from 2 to 4 months, but that's just an average- they may conclude more quickly or last much longer. Evaluations that take too long are essentially worthless, for reasons explained in more detail below.
If the evaluation is finished in a couple of weeks or a month, be suspicious. It doesn't necessarily mean the evaluation was rushed or done improperly, but it's at the extreme low end of the time-scale for these things. It may mean that certain procedures were 'streamlined' or skipped, and you should inquire as to whether or not all the relevant people were contacted, etc.
Conversely, if the evaluation is taking a long time (5 or 6 months or more), this may also be reason for concern. It may be that the evaluator is lethargic in his/her duties, unmotivated, or incompetent. It may also mean that they're 'milking' you financially for all they can get. It could mean that the evaluator has been unable to contact the relevant parties, or that the opposing attorney (or his client) is deliberately stalling the evaluation, dragging it out and making it take an abnormally long time.
When this happens, the judge may ignore the evaluator's findings and decide to "preserve the status quo", making no changes in the custody arrangements. This situation is most often seen when one parent has full 'temporary' custody and wants it to remain that way.
By prolonging the evaluation unreasonably, they set the stage for the judge to rule that, because of the long elapsed time, the child has an 'established custodial environment' and no change will be made for the sake of his/her stability. Attorneys know this and may attempt to use it to benefit their client. This is another reason to vigorously insist on some form of shared parenting during the separation and/or evaluation period.