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Medical, Psychological and Social Evaluations for Child Custody Awards

Medical, Psychological and Social Evaluations for Child Custody Awards

Prior to making a determination of custody of a child, the court may order a medical, psychological, or social evaluation of the child or the parents, or all of them. As part of the evaluation, the court may request that the doctor, psychologist, or other professional expert give a report and make a recommendation as to custody and visitation.

When Evaluations Are Ordered

A custody hearing presents the equivalent of a picture or photograph to a judge or hearing officer. When that judge believes that more in depth information is needed to make a determination as to what is in the best interests of a child, or if a parent requests it, the judge may order that the child or parents, or all of them be evaluated. This is particularly important where there are allegations that a child has special needs or that a parent is not fit or capable of caring for the child. Evaluations may be made by physicians, psychologists, or court appointed or employed social workers.

In some situations, it is very clear that a child has a medical need. The child may be blind, have cerebral palsy, or be diagnosed with a variety of allergies. Other times, it is more difficult to determine whether there is a medical or psychological problem. For example, there may be a nine-year-old child who still wets the bed or a first grader who has trouble learning to read. Medical, psychological, and social evaluations will be helpful in diagnosing the problem and what, if anything can or should be done. The evaluation could also reveal whether the parents are willing to accept the diagnoses and take whatever steps are necessary to deal with the problem.

Use of Evaluations

Copies of evaluation reports are usually provided to the court and to the attorneys representing the parents. After reading the reports and any recommendations, the lawyers for the parents will try to work out an agreement. If the parents cannot reach agreement on custody, each parent can seek his or her own experts to try and bolster or refute the court ordered reports. If there is a court hearing on the issue of custody, the experts will be called to testify as to the results and the basis for the recommendation. As a rule, unless the parents are indigent, parents will be responsible for paying for the court ordered evaluations.

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Robert Reid McInvale
Attorney at Law

Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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