Q: Can Dr. Alexander perform a child custody evaluation for my family?
A: In New Mexico, child custody evaluations are also referred to as Rule 11-706 Evaluations.
The goal of any child custody evaluation is to determine the best interests of the child/children. This can include a variety of areas such as:
- Should a child live with one or both parents;
- Should a child be in the primary custody of the father or mother;
- Which school or educational type is best for the child;
- Should the child receive specialized medical/mental health services;
- Should limits be placed on whether a child spends time with certain others (siblings, step-parents, grandparents, etc.);
- Should the parents share joint custody or is sole custody best;
- Can the child move with a parent to a new community or state.
Dr. Alexander only performs two child custody evaluations per calendar year. All procedures take place in his office in Rio Rancho.
Please note that Dr. Alexander does not conduct second opinion evaluations in child custody matters.
Q: How easy is it to schedule a child custody evaluation with Dr. Alexander?
A: Dr. Alexander only performs two child custody evaluations per calendar year. This is because these evaluations are very time-intensive and are not the sole focus of Dr. Alexander's practice.
In addition, parties wanting a child custody evaluation with Dr. Alexander will need to keep the following in mind:
- Dr. Alexander only performs child custody evaluations in New Mexico and only when appointed to do so by District Court;
- Pre-authorization is required before the court can appoint Dr. Alexander to perform the evaluation;
- No procedures commence until (a) Dr. Alexander receives a copy of the court order, and (b) all parties have given written consent and paid their retainer
Q: What procedures are involved in a child custody evaluation?
A: Before agreeing to participate in a child custody evaluation, parents are encouraged to read "Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings." This can be accessed online:
While the standards and parameters contained within this document are geared toward child custody professionals, the information will help you understand what a child custody evaluation entails, as well as what its limitations are.
At a minimum, a child custody evaluation will include an in-depth interview with one or both parents, as well as parent-child observations.
Other procedures might--but not always--include:
- Psychological testing of one or both parents;
- Psychological/educational testing of the child;
- Classroom observation of the child;
- Home visit;
- Criminal background checks;
- Speaking or meeting with collateral sources.
Because Dr. Alexander is a child psychologist, greater weight is given to issues that directly affect the kid(s) than to peripheral issues. In other words, this is a child-centered process throughout. This can sometimes be frustrating for parents, who want the evaluator to focus more on the various faults and limitations of the other parent than how the child is doing.
In addition, Dr. Alexander takes a forward-looking approach to these evaluations. Thus, greater emphasis is placed on how to move things forward in a positive direction for the child, rather than getting bogged down on circumstances from the past.
Q: How do I prepare for a child custody evaluation?
A: During the initial interview, you will basically be asked to provide (a) a relationship history between you and the child's other parent; (b) a developmental history of the child; and (c) an accounting of concerns about the child and his/her other parent.
This can be taxing on one's short-term memory, especially if the children are older or if the story is excessively complex.
In advance of your first appointment, it will be helpful if you can write down key dates, life events, and concerns that you want to discuss with Dr. Alexander.
Inevitably, child custody evaluations entail a high number of accusations, which often fall into the classification of 'he-said/she-said.' Greater weight is given to accusations that can substantiated. Therefore, if you can, obtain copies of:
- Police reports
- Restraining orders
- Child protection reports
- Teacher reports
- Physician reports/summaries
- Court-ordered treatment plans
- Psychological reports
- Criminal background checks
At times, Dr. Alexander will want to speak with collateral sources who know the child and family. More typical, however, is that Dr. Alexander will want these individuals to put their observations or concerns in writing.
Keep in mind that a child custody evaluation can be a lengthy process. Therefore, it usually is not advisable to make key decisions pertaining to the child's life while the process is underway unless you have been given the ok to do so by the court.
Q: What can I expect to pay for an evaluation of this nature?
A: National surveys show that child custody evaluations typically cost between $3,000 and $15,000. This amount only includes the procedures and report, but not deposition or court testimony.
In other words, a child custody is not inexpensive and no part of it is covered by insurance.
Dr. Alexander bills all procedures on an hourly rate of $175.00/hr. This includes interviews, testing, scoring, records review, report writing, and travel.
Dr. Alexander charges $250.00/hr for deposition (to include a minimum charge for 2 hours for preparation).
Dr. Alexander charges $275.00/hr for court testimony [$200.00 for in-court time when he is present, but not on the stand].
All fees are due before the written report is released or before Dr. Alexander testifies.
All fees will include New Mexico gross receipts tax.
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