Child Custody Evaluation

Dear Jessica:
I was divorced last year. I have a 6-year old daughter. My ex-husband was given supervised visitation pending a custody evaluation. The doctor listed in the decree who was supposed to do the evaluation says she can’t take the case. My ex wants to use a different doctor who isn’t even a PhD. Can he force us to go to this new doctor he has chosen? Do we have to go back to court over this?

Dear Vicki:

Your question presents and interesting legal issue in the child custody evaluation realm. Many parents who have gone through a Nevada divorce have learned that the pain and the acrimony of the process does not end just because the judge has signed the divorce decree. Along those lines, there are few things worse than feeling that your child is unsafe when visiting the other parent post-divorce pursuant to a court order.

Supervised visitation is generally ordered in cases where there is a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health issues. Rather than cutting off visitation completely, which can have long term detrimental effects on the parent-child relationship, the court allows visitation with appropriate safeguards in place.

Sometimes the only appropriate safeguard in these types of child custody cases is to have a neutral third-party present to supervise visitation between the children and the other parent. While sometimes expensive and inconvenient, supervised visitation gives the visiting parent an opportunity to address specific issues affecting parenting, while at the same time maintaining the relationship between the children and the visiting parent.

It is important to note that supervised visitation is designed to be a temporary solution to a child custody dispute. It is not meant to be a long-term child custody arrangement. The goal of any supervised visitation schedule is to eventually “ramp-up” to a regular visitation schedule as soon as it is in the child’s best interests to do so. The reason for this is that it is difficult to maintain a normal and healthy parent-child relationship under a supervised visitation structure, which provides an artificial environment that is not necessarily conducive to normal parenting.

It is for this reason that I suggest you make expedient and appropriate arrangements for a custody evaluation pursuant to your court order. While it may be tempting to keep the supervised visitation in place longer than the court anticipated, I do not believe that it is in your child’s best interests to keep the parent-child relationship in limbo in this manner.

If you do not agree to the custody evaluator chosen by your ex-husband, then I suggest you offer alternative evaluators. If you cannot come to an agreement on the appropriate evaluator, then you will have to return to court and ask the Judge to make the decision for you.

I agree with you, however, that the custody evaluator should be a PhD who has experience evaluating parent-child relationships and child custody schedules. You also want to make sure that the evaluator is someone whose opinion the court will respect. Custody evaluations tend to be very expensive and it would be a shame to pay the hefty evaluation fee just to have the court disregard the opinion of the child custody evaluator.

Anyone who has questions about supervised visitation or custody evaluations in general may wish to consult a Nevada law firm that has a family law practice area and lawyers who specifically handle child custody and visitation disputes. If you need more information or wish to discuss these issues further, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno office at 775-823-0049 and schedule a consultation with our family law attorneys.

Best of Luck,
Jessica Anderson
Family Law Attorney, Reno, Nevada