Custody and parenting time disputes are relatively common, and when two parents cannot manage to reach an agreement over such issues the court will step in. Typically, the court will first instruct the parents to participate in the Custody and Parenting Time Mediation Program wherein they will attempt to negotiate agreements on these issues with the help of a mediator. When this fails, as it sometimes does when there are issues such as parental alienation or substance abuse involved, the court can then refer the parents to the Custody Neutral Assessment Program. Custody Neutral Assessments (CNAs) differ from full custody evaluations because they serve a very specific purpose. Let’s look at the basics of CNAs.
CNAs are not comprehensive custody evaluations. They typically do not result in a definite custody recommendation to the court. Rather, the objective is to simply identify and review the major issues the parents are struggling with. Psychologists and/or clinical social workers will interview the parents and, in many cases, the child. They will then generate a report, which will be sent to the judge. In this respect, the results of the assessment are not confidential. The report may identify the issues that should influence the custody decision, suggest further actions such as a substance abuse evaluation, a full custody evaluation or the appointment of a parenting coordinator and assist the court and the parents with finding an appropriate resolution.
In contrast, a full custody evaluation will involve reviewing documents, evaluative tests and numerous in-depth interviews. The objective of a full custody evaluation is to ascertain which parent should get custody and provide that recommendation to the court. Full custody evaluations are expensive, take longer to complete and are more high-stakes for the parents.
If the CNA is not effective in contributing to a resolution of the problems, the parents may need to take the matter to trial. Going to trial is a big commitment and typically the last resort. For this reason, it is usually in the best interests of the parents to participate in good faith in the Custody Neutral Assessment Program.
If you have a custody or parenting time dispute, you should speak with an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney about your case. CNAs can be effective at clarifying the major issues in the case, but you should consult with an attorney before undergoing any interviews. Although the assessment may not lead to a clear-cut custody recommendation, the results will provide invaluable guidance in your case.
Do you have questions about custody neutral assessments? The attorneys at the Williams Law Group, LLC know how important custody assessments are and will serve as your advocate every step of the way. Located in Union, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation so you can work with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.