A Child Custody Evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of the child(ren)'s needs and each parent's ability to meet those needs. It further is objective and enables an opportunity to focus on the best interests of the child and not the dynamics of the parents.
Dianne Van Blaricom is a Nationally Certified Custody Evaluator with The Academy Register of Family Court Services. Custody evaluations are conducted at the request of an individual, couple, attorney, or by a court order. Custody evaluations are most often utilized in highly contested custody disputes. Custody evaluations are non-confidential and are conducted in the best interest of the child or children involved.
Custody Evaluations consist of a one on one with both parties (parents), observation of the children with each party, conduct age-appropriate interviews with the children, interview other significant people in the children's lives such as teachers, daycare providers, healthcare providers, extended family members, and friends. A home visit with the parties occurs to assist in the evaluation process and often if the child lives elsewhere visiting the home the child may live.
Custody Evaluations may include visitation recommendations; parenting plans that outline the time-share between and the responsibilities of each of the parents; identify how parents might deal with future conflicts; any therapy recommendations for parents and/or children; when special problems exist such as domestic violence-substance abuse problems-alienation of children-relocation, and others there will need to be special recommendations focusing on those special issues.
You may find yourself in a situation where you have a child and are now having to establish custody. You may be divorced or in the process of a divorce. You may need DNA testing, or waiting for the results. Often parents who have children can agree on parenting issues. Co-parenting is becoming essential with raising children. However, there are times when parents cannot agree on what is in the best interests of their child(ren). Hiring an independent, objective Mental Health Evaluator can be very helpful in these situations.
If you have ever received behavioral health services by Melissa Dianne Van Blaricom Jones LPCC, due to a conflict of interest and the evolution of custody evaluations, she can not provide a service to you, this is effective January 1, 2016. All referrals are matched with our database, and any past or present clients can not receive therapeutic services from Melissa Dianne Van Blaricom Jones, LPCC.
For a Child Custody Evaluation to begin, there must be either an order from the court stating that a child custody evaluation is necessary or both parents must agree to the custody evaluation in writing. I encourage both parties to have it court-ordered and to have it state that both parties will split the cost 50/50. Then both parents and their attorneys will need to agree as to whom they would like to hire. Once this has been arranged, both parents will be seen together for an initial meeting to explain the process, fees, what can be expected, and to sign the necessary paperwork. The evaluation can then begin. When completing a Child Custody Evaluation, both parents are evaluated, as well as the children in the family. It may be necessary to review medical, school, mental health records. It also may be necessary to make a home visit to both homes for assessment. You may also be asked for neighbors or other non-relatives we may speak to for information.
The entire process usually takes between 60-90 days. If a report is needed it will then be written and submitted to the court or the hiring attorney. You will need to pay for the evaluation in full before it beginning. If a written report is needed, payment for this will also need to be made in full before the report can be released to all parties.
It is important to understand that the Child Custody Mental Health Evaluator is NOT a Therapist to either party or the children involved, but is hired to be a neutral and impartial evaluator of what is in the best interest of the child(ren). Once the evaluation has been completed, the professional relationship will end between you and the evaluator.
Child Custody Evaluations are NOT to determine fault or blame of either parent nor is it to take sides of either parent or guardian.
Melissa Dianne Van Blaricom has specialized training in Child Custody Evaluations and has over 6 years of clinical experience working with custody evaluations. She has over 23 years of clinical experience working with children and adolescents aged 3-18 years of age. She is familiar with Primary and Secondary Educational settings, both private and public. She has experience with Individual Education Programs (IEP's) and 504 accommodations to assist the need of children. She holds a Master's degree in Counseling and Human Development and a Master's degree in Business Management. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. As a clinician, she has worked with ancillary services which include but are not limited to primary physicians, teachers, child abuse services, local police, and the criminal justice system.
Once a court order has been established for a custody evaluation and both parties have agreed to hire Mrs. Melissa Dianne Van Blaricom Jones, she will arrange appointments with your client(s) and explain the process of the evaluation. After all, documents are signed by both parents and full payment has been made, the evaluation will begin. Provided all parties cooperate, the evaluation should be completed with 90 days. If a written report is needed, please indicate this and the time frame.