Return to Dr.Zieman's Home Page

GAYLE ZIEMAN, Ph.D.
Child, Family and School Psychologist
Girard-Indian School Professional Building
2741 Indian School Road, NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

Phone: 505.255.6002

 

CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATIONS

Regarding Child Custody, Timesharing and Court-Ordered Parenting Plans

 

I. Data Collection Steps and Processes
Each family situation is unique, and therefore evaluations must often be customized. However, almost all evaluations follow the outline shown below:

  1. With Each Parent
    1. Personal and family history forms are given for completion at least 48 business hours before the first appointment so they can be studied for use in the first appointment.
    2. An individual interview (usually 2.5 hr.) is held to discuss the history of the family and to understand the current issues.
    3. Testing is done with each parent. Each must complete extensive psychological testing (approximately 2 hr.) to screen for mental health issues which may impact parenting.
    4. Each parent completes a Parenting Plan Ideas form outlining their ideas for all aspects of the future parenting plan (including topics such as: time w/ each parent, holidays, child exchanges, child-to-parent telephone contact, and between-parent communications).
    5. If communication patterns between the parents are unclear, then the parents are interviewed together to assess their future ability to communicate and cooperate.
    6. An interview (approx. 2 hr.) is held to discuss issue specifics arising during the evaluation and the parent's ideas about what parenting plan is in the child(ren)'s best interests.

  2. With Each Child
    1. Each parent complete a history form and a behavioral rating scale.
    2. Each parent household is visited (approx. 1.5 hours). This home observation allows the psychologist to get to know the child(ren) and to observe the family in structured, psychologist-specified activities. For families living outside central New Mexico, other arrangements for meeting the child(ren) and observing the family in structured, psychologist-specified activities are made.
    3. Each child who attends elementary school and higher is seen twice for age-appropriate interviewing, once when brought by each parent.
    4. Major adults who see the children daily, such as teachers and daycare providers, are asked to complete behavioral rating scales.

  3. With Each Stepparent Figure (or other adult frequently in a parent's home)
    1. A personal history form is given for completion at least 48 business hours before the first appointment so it can be studied for use in the interview appointmen.
    2. An individual interview (usually 1.5 hr.) is held to discuss the adult's personal history and their observations regarding the current child custody issues.
    3. Testing is done. Each adult must complete extensive psychological testing to screen for mental health issues which may impact parenting.

  4. Collateral Sources
    1. A broad set of relevant outside sources (such as therapists, teachers, previous spouses, or daycare providers) may be contacted for telephone interviewing (up to 15 min each). Personal friends and extended family are not interviewed unless they have an exceptional role. The maximum number of sources is 1.5 times the number of family members (parent figures + children) in the consultation. For example, a consultation with 5 family members (2 parents, 1 stepparent, and 2 children) could have up to 8 sources.
    2. Up to 1.5 hours of external documentation can be reviewed (hours beyond are billed at $230 per hour). Typical documents reviewed are: court orders, medical records, police reports, school report cards, and emails or text message between parents.

II. Reports and Recommendations

  1. Psychological Report:
    At the conclusion of the data collection, an Advisory Child Custody Psychological Evaluation Report is written for the Court and the parents (usually 6-9 pages in length). This report gives a list of the data sources used and provides a detailed discussion of the psychological findings about each family member and household environment. Psychological conclusions and recommendations reached about the family and the child(ren)'s best interests are discussed.

  2. Recommended Parenting Plan:
    A full parenting plan ready for adoption by the Court is provided (usually 4-6 pages). This plan is very detailed with provisions for all major areas typically found in court-ordered parenting plans. For example, included are: a detailed routine timesharing plan, thorough holiday arrangements, plans for traveling with the children, child exchange details, plans for school and religious upbringing, directions for extracurricular involvement and parent-child telephone calls, and detailed directives for parent communications.

  3. Release of Evaluation Results:
    Both attorneys and Dr. Zieman meet (1.0-1.5 hr.) for Dr. Zieman's presentation of findings, conclusions and recommendations. Report copies are given to each attorney and usually they provide copies to the Court. The attorneys or Dr. Zieman may provide the reports to the parents.

  4. Outcome After the Release of Evaluation Results:
    One of three outcomes typically occur.
    1. Adoption of the recommended parenting plan (the most common outcome) either by parent agreement or by a simple hearing before the Court
    2. Modifications to the recommended parenting plan are agreed to through negotiations between parents, or the Court is requested to order modifications.
    3. A parent strongly objects to the recommended plan (the least common outcome) and requests a hearing for the Court to consider a different parenting plan.

III. Fees
  1. Evaluations are billed on a flat rate using the following schedule:
    1. Each Parent - $2,300
    2. Each Stepparent/Stepparent Figure or Adult who is frequently in the home- $1,200
    3. Infants/Preschoolers (age 4 or less) - $1,700
    4. Children (Kindergarten to age 11) - $2,000
    5. Pre-teens/Adolescents (ages 12-17) $2,300
    6. Collateral Children often in the home, but not presenting major evaluation issues (such as half/step-siblings) - $200 per preschooler, $300 per child, $400 per pre-teen/adolescent.

  2. There are extra fees (billed at $230 per hour) when:
    1. A parent lives outside Albuquerque but in central New Mexico (such as: Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, or Santa Fe) to cover added driving time & costs for the home observation.
    2. Services are needed on Saturday or after 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.
    3. Interim recommendations must be developed during the consultation.
    4. External documentation exceeds 1.5 hours of review time.
    5. The number of external sources for short (≤ 15 min.) telephone interviewing is greater than one half the number of family members in the evaluation
    6. An external source requires interviewing for more than 15 minutes.
    7. There is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) appointed for the children.
    8. Appointments are late canceled or missed — see the form Court-Related Services: New Client Information and Agreement for specifics.

  3. Payments
    50% of each parent's financial responsible portion is due at the first appointment. At the last appointment the remaining 50% is due. Reports and conclusions are delayed pending full payment.

    NM Gross Receipts Tax applies to all fees. MasterCard, Discover, and VISA cards are accepted.

IV. After Completion of the Evaluation
If parents or attorneys have clarification questions about the written report or recommended parenting plan, all questions and responses must be shared with both sides of the litigation.

If meetings, depositions, or a court appearance are needed, they are billed as follows with payment due in advance:

  1. Telephone or in-person consultations
    $230/hr., $115/half hr., $65/qtr hr.

  2. Court Appearances/Depositions:
    1. $600 for ≤ 2 hr., $1,200 for half day (≤ 4 hr.), $2,400 for a day (> 4 hr., additional hourly fees if before 9 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m.), includes preparation, but not pre-testimony meetings with attorneys.
    2. Travel time, mileage, & parking fees are added for services outside central Albuquerque.
      c.  Court appearances/depositions are paid for by the parent whose attorney requests them.

See the form Court-Related Services: New Client Information and Agreement for general office policies regarding: