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GAYLE ZIEMAN, Ph.D.
Child, Family and School Psychologist
Girard-Indian School Professional Building
2741 Indian School Road, NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
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:
- With Each Parent
- 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.
- An individual interview (usually 2.5 hr.) is held to discuss the
history of the family and to understand the current issues.
- 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.
- 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).
- If communication patterns between the parents are unclear, then the
parents are interviewed together to assess their future ability to communicate
- 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.
- With Each Child
- Each parent complete a history form and a behavioral rating scale.
- 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.
- Each child who attends elementary school and higher is seen twice for
age-appropriate interviewing, once when brought by each parent.
- Major adults who see the children daily, such as teachers and daycare
providers, are asked to complete behavioral rating scales.
- With Each Stepparent Figure (or other adult frequently
in a parent's home)
- 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.
- 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.
- Testing is done. Each adult must complete extensive psychological
testing to screen for mental health issues which may impact parenting.
- Collateral Sources
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Outcome After the Release of Evaluation
One of three outcomes typically occur.
- Adoption of the recommended parenting plan (the most common outcome)
either by parent agreement or by a
simple hearing before the Court
- Modifications to the recommended parenting plan are agreed to through
negotiations between parents, or the Court is requested to order modifications.
- 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.
- Evaluations are billed on a flat rate
using the following schedule:
- Each Parent - $2,300
- Each Stepparent/Stepparent Figure or Adult who is frequently in the home- $1,200
- Infants/Preschoolers (age 4 or less) - $1,700
- Children (Kindergarten to age 11) - $2,000
- Pre-teens/Adolescents (ages 12-17) $2,300
- 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.
- There are extra fees (billed at $230 per hour) when:
- 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.
- Services are needed on Saturday or after 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.
- Interim recommendations must be developed during the consultation.
- External documentation exceeds 1.5 hours of review time.
- The number of external sources for short (≤ 15 min.) telephone
interviewing is greater than one half the number of family
members in the evaluation
- An external source requires interviewing for more than 15 minutes.
- There is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) appointed for the children.
- Appointments are late canceled or missed — see the form
Services: New Client Information and Agreement for specifics.
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:
See the form Court-Related Services: New Client Information and Agreement for general
office policies regarding:
- Telephone or in-person consultations
$230/hr., $115/half hr., $65/qtr hr.
- Court Appearances/Depositions:
- $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.
- Travel time, mileage, & parking fees are added for services outside
c. Court appearances/depositions are paid for by the parent whose
attorney requests them.