WHAT IS A PARENTING CAPACITY AND ACCESS EVALUATION?
A Parenting Capacity and Access Evaluation is a psycho-social examination of a parentís capacity to raise his or her children and assist the children to grow and thrive to the point where they have a reasonable opportunity to be a successful adult. This is an evaluation that takes place when there is a custody dispute between parents and it is difficult for the parents to develop a parenting plan that services the best interest of the children. This evaluation is usually ordered by the Court as an aid to the Court to determine custody and access.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE EVALUATION?
To conduct an evaluation to determine what would be in the best interests of the children with respect to custody and access.
HOW IS AN EVALUATION CONDUCTED?
As a general rule an evaluation takes approximately forty hours to conduct and consist of the following steps:
- Separate interviews with each parent;
- Separate interviews with each child;
- Observation of each parent with the child/ children which will include a visit to the home of each parent;
- Interviews with other persons who are deemed to be significant in the lives of the children, e.g., current partner of a parent, teachers, baby-sitters, therapists, supervisors of visits, doctors, etc.;
- Review of all pertinent documents that have been previously filed in Court;
- Review of discoverable reports authored other experts;
- Psychological testing of parents (including stepparents) and sometimes of the children involved in the custody dispute; and
- Review of all materials that may be judged as being pertinent to the case.
IS THE EVALUATION CONFIDENTIAL?
- The parents must understand that the rules of confidentiality are waived for all participants in this evaluation and that any and all information gathered may be made available to the Court, or may be discoverable in future collateral legal actions.
- The parents must also understand that the evaluator will not only seek information from significant others, but that this information may be shared with others when the evaluator needs to obtain someoneís reaction to real or alleged fact.
- The participants must understand that the evaluator may wish to consult with other mental health professionals for the purpose of the current evaluation if this course of action is seen as appropriate and helpful.
- The evaluator will not provide opinions to either parent or to their respective attorneys regarding this case until the final report is filed with the attorney of each parent or with the Court if applicable.
- After the Parenting Capacity And Access Study has been completed and has been filed with the respective attorneys, the evaluator will have no further conversations with either party regarding the contents of the document. Any areas requiring clarification will be addressed in writing through the attorneys and the evaluator will respond in writing to the attorney for each party. This action is due to the fact that the completed evaluation may serve as bases of evidence that the evaluator may be required to give to the Court. Thus, the only way the evaluator will discuss the contents of the report is in the presence of both lawyers.