PSYCHOLOGIST

Dr. Karyne Messina

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Psychotherapy | Testing | Psychoanalysis | The College Edge | Career Counseling | Coaching | Couples and Family Counseling | Mother/Baby Interventions | Custody Evaluations

CUSTODY EVALUATIONS
Separation and divorce can be devastating events for all family members, especially when issues related to custody are part of the process.  Frequently, custody decisions are made and agreed upon without a thorough assessment of all family members which should be a central part of the decision-making process.

This is especially true since there is no certainty an agreement made between parents alone in a state of distress is the best decision for all family members. Just because two adults agree on how they will divide up the time to see their children, it may not be in their child's or children's best interest. Often people want to avoid more conflict after struggling in a marriage for many years so in haste they decide to "go along with" what his or her spouse wants to "get it over with."  There also are people who will do anything to cling to a relationship that has been unsatisfying for years just to keep the family together." 

For the reasons cited above, as well as other important factors, it is very important for an unbiased expert to study the situation, evaluate and interview all members of the family, and frequently administer tests that can help determine what the most optimal living situation is for everyone's sake. This type of assessment is especially important for the well-being of each child. Through an objective evaluation, a trained professional gathers all of the data, and provides a comprehensive repost that is based on interviews with everyone in the family, observations of each child at school, and with each parents at home.  Testing is frequently included to ensure the evaluator is providing the most objective report possible.  In this way, after all of the data is gathered, a comprehensive summary is provided that includes conclusions and recommendations, as well as how they were reached. A good evaluation should assist the court in making a final decision about custody. In some situations, the evaluator will make a recommendation that another assessment would be optimal 5 years after the initial custody agreement is set in place because of the ever-changing ways circumstances may be very different after a number of years. 

Needs of all members of a family can change after time such as when one or both spouses remarry, when one or both spouses relocate, when one spouse becomes ill, etc. At the judges request, a plan for another evaluation may be part of the custody evaluator's recommendations to prevent struggles at a later time. It is often helpful to make an arrangement for how disputes will be adjudicated if major differences arise. This often can keep one party or the other from initiating another court action due to a custody issue that has arisen since the first one went into effect.