Evidence is critical in a custody trial. Without evidence, custody arguments can devolve into a “he-said, she-said” free for all. Judges don’t like this. Therefore, having evidence to back up your statements and claims can make a huge difference in your case. Often professionals such as forensic examiners are used to gather evidence.


In a child custody dispute, a forensic examiner is an expert called upon to assist the court in evaluating the case. This individual will conduct interviews with parents and other caregivers in the child’s life. In some cases where appropriate, the forensic examiner will also interview the child. The forensic examiner might want to observe parental interactions with the child. In addition, the forensic examiner will review records and documents related to the case. Where needed, the forensic examiner may conduct interviews to confirm information with others such as the child’s teacher. The professional is looking for emotional or psychological problems that would be pertinent in a custody dispute.


When it comes to custody decisions, courts make judgements based on the best interests of the child. “Factors to be considered include the quality of the home environment and the parental guidance the custodial parent provides for the child, the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s emotional and intellectual development, the financial status and ability of each parent to provide for the child, the relative fitness of the respective parents, and the effect an award of custody to one parent might have on the child’s relationship with the other parent'” (Kaplan v Kaplan, 21 AD3d 993, 994-995, quoting Miller v Pipia, 297 AD2d 362, 364).

Given the courts will decide based on these factors, the courts will then need guidance on how to evaluate these factors for each case. How should they assess the “quality of the home environment” or “parental guidance”? Judges are trained in the law, not in child psychology. Therefore, when they need to make these kinds of evaluations, they turn to experts. For custody decisions, this is often a forensic examiner with a background in psychology.


The following is based on a real case.

Sole custody had been awarded to the mother, but the father protested. The court had found that the relationship between the parents was so acrimonious that it would not be suitable to award joint custody. The mother had made four accusations that the father had committed acts of physical abuse against the child. These accusations were investigated and found to be lies. One of the professionals involved in the investigation was a forensic examiner. The result – the father was given sole custody.

If you are in a child custody dispute, ask your lawyer about forensic examiners. Select a lawyer who has worked with forensic examiners and knows the individuals in they system.

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